Haverhill City Councilor David Hall stands next to one of two small signs in the Merrimack Valley Medical Associates parking lot, across from Merrimack Valley Hospital. Patients who park in the wrong lot will have their cars towed.

HAVERHILL — One little word — “Valley” — caused Paula Komola three hours of angst and $110 before she could claim her truck from the tow yard, she said.

Komola’s truck was towed from a parking lot next to Merrimack Valley Hospital because she mistakenly parked in a spot reserved for patients of Merrimack Valley Medical Center.

Her doctor belongs to Merrimack Medical Center, a confusing situation that she did not notice until it was too late.

“I was left in the cold with a 3-year-old child,” she said of being towed. “It’s a scandal.”

Komola, 43, said she fell victim to an ongoing parking battle between Merrimack Valley Medical Center, which is run by Dr. Onaly Kapasi, and patients who visit doctors in Merrimack Valley Hospital next door.

City Councilor David Hall is getting involved.

Hall said he received a complaint from a man who is about 90 years old whose car was towed from Kapasi’s lot. The man said he did not know that parking was restricted. Signs are posted but they are confusing, Hall said.

“The signage is so bad that no reasonable person can understand it,” Hall said.

He said up to eight vehicles are towed from the parking lot a day by One Ten Towing on White Street, a company hired by Kapasi.

Hall wants to mediate a solution between Kapasi and the hospital by erecting better signs that differentiate between three organizations with similar names. The parking dispute has been happening for three years.

“I’m frustrated,” Hall said. “It’s getting out of hand. This is something that has to be addressed.”

Kapasi, an orthopedic doctor, would not comment. Hall said Kapasi is a reasonable person who is hoping to resolve the situation if possible.

Merrimack Valley Hospital has no jurisdiction over Kapasi’s towing practice, but efforts are being made to make the situation less confusing, hospital spokeswoman Mary O’Neil said.

“What we are really concerned about are people visiting the hospital, patients and visitors,” O’Neil said. “When people come on our campus we don’t want them angry or confused.”

The hospital plans to put up at least one more sign to direct patients and visitors to hospital parking.

“We want to make sure it’s clear as can be,” she said.

Komola said her doctor ended up reimbursing her for the $110 towing cost because it was her first visit to the office and she was unaware of the parking conflict.

One Ten Towing owner Michael Malvers said there are 98 spots in Kapasi’s lot, which is almost always full of trespassing patients from the hospital. The problem is that the hospital built the new Merrimack Medical Center addition without adding any parking, so patients naturally flow into Kapasi’s lot, Malvers said.

The doctor has tried to be diplomatic, but after months of frustration he turned to towing the cars, Malvers said.

“It’s their responsibility at the hospital to alleviate this pressure,” Malvers said of the illegal parking happening at Kapasi’s lot.

Hall said One Ten Towing tows about eight cars a day from the lot. Malvers said that is not true. He said they have towed a total of about 10 cars.

Similar names, different lots

They are on the same medial campus off Lincoln Avenue, creating a confusing parking situation for patients because of their similar names:

r Merrimack Valley Hospital

r Merrimack Valley Medical Center, a private doctors office complex on the grounds of the hospital but in a separate building. The center has its own parking lot for its patients only.

r Merrimack Medical Center, a private doctors complex that is part of the hospital

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