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Watertown City Council to discuss park rules

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Discussion about revamping rules at Thompson Park and other city parks will be the subject of tonight’s Watertown City Council work session.

The matter surfaced after part-time City Judge Catherine J. Palermo dismissed the case 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, despite signs indicating the park was closed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

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.

But Mr. Cheal’s attorney, Anthony M. Neddo, had argued that the signs leading into the park are vague about the times it is open.

On Sept. 20, Judge Palermo dismissed the 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 also was dismissed.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said council members need to sort out what kinds of rules, if any, should be put into place at city parks. Three years ago, city police initially brought up the issue after voicing concerns about noise and alcohol problems occurring in the park at night. But the council never acted on those concerns.

Last month, council members decided that Thompson Park remains open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, contrary to the signs posted around the park that say it is closed between those hours. Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns had asked how the city could close the roads when Watertown Golf Club members and employees are allowed to use them during off-hours.

The work session begins at 7 tonight in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St.

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