Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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City Council decides to keep Thompson Park roads open at night


Don’t expect the signs indicating that Thompson Park is closed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. to change any time soon.

And City Manager Sharon A. Addison has decided not to protest a City Court judge’s decision to throw out a driving while intoxicated charge against a Carthage man because the park signs are allegedly too vague about whether motorists are allowed to drive through the park during those hours.

“Why would we use city money to pursue it?” Ms. Addison asked.

The man’s attorney, Anthony M. Neddo, argued that signs leading into Thompson Park are vague about the times it is open.

After discussing the issue for about 30 minutes on Tuesday night, the City Council took no action on making any changes to the park signs. Council members also informally agreed to keep the roads open to traffic during those hours.

In arguing to keep the status quo, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns asked how the city could close the roads when Watertown Golf Club members are allowed to use them during off-hours. She also noted that John T. Wright, executive director of the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park, lives there with his family.

She said she wondered how police could adequately enforce a ban, especially since all motorists would have to do is tell the officer they were at the golf club.

According to city ordinance, golf club employees, members and their guests are allowed in the park after hours. As part of their regular duties, police officers periodically patrol the park after hours, mainly to see if anyone is causing trouble.

Eugene P. Hayes, superintendent of the city’s Department of Public Works, presented what the new signs — costing about $700 apiece and measuring 30 inches high and 60 inches wide — would look like if they were used at the park entrances. The judge required placing two of them at each of the three park entrances.

As soon as he heard the $4,200 cost, Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. said it didn’t make sense to spend that kind of money.

The matter came up after part-time Watertown City Judge Catherine J. Palermo dismissed the case last month against James J. Cheal, 45, of 3614 Roberts Road, Carthage.

Police stopped Mr. Cheal when he drove into the park at the Franklin Street entrance about midnight Nov. 30. Police then determined that Mr. Cheal’s blood alcohol content was 0.20 percent, and he was charged with aggravated DWI. The state threshold for intoxicated driving is 0.08 percent BAC; for aggravated DWI, it is 0.18 percent.

On Sept. 20, Judge Palermo dismissed a violation ticket issued to Mr. Cheal for being in the city-owned park after hours, contending that the signs are traffic-control devices and do not adequately notify motorists that they are not permitted to enter Thompson Park after 9 p.m. With the park ticket dismissed, any evidence that was gathered during the improper stop had to be suppressed, and the DWI charge was dismissed.

It was not clear on Tuesday night whether the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office will file an appeal.

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