ROCKPORT — The rates on some town parking meters could jump by another 50 cents an hour and the meters’ operation times are about to slide forward and start charging parkers from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
But first, Rockporters will have a chance to discuss and dispute the proposed changes at a selectmen’s hearing Tuesday night.
In a contract between the town and parking and telecommunications company IPS Group, which distributes parking meters, the town is paying close to $2,000 to implement 30 individual, electronic, solar-powered meters in high traffic areas around town for what is planned as a 90-day trial period that’s set to begin Aug. 6.
Selectmen signed the contract July 10, feeling pressured to sign in order to secure a trial start date that included part of the busy summer season, officials said.
But later, selectmen learned that the meters were to arrive in Rockport preset with rate and time changes, according to Town Administrator Linda Sanders, a member of the Traffic Committee. The new rates will boost the hourly parking charge from 50 cents to $1.
“Some people may have issues with the change in time and the change in the fees,” Sanders said. “The selectmen decided to have a hearing about that so that people could weigh in on it.”
Rockporters can voice their opinions at a public hearing in the Town Hall’s Conference Room A on Tuesday between 7 and 10 p.m.
The Traffic Committee will open the hearing with a presentation of the new credit card-accepting meters, then residents will have a chance to comment, according to Sanders. Immediately following, she said, selectmen will deliberate and vote whether or not to move forward with the meter trial, stepped up charges and all.
If selectmen vote down the rate and time changes, the trial will be delayed as the town awaits reprogrammed meters, according to Sanders, who said that, if the project is postponed until the end of summer, it could then be scrapped until next year.
“We wouldn’t back out of the contract, but we wouldn’t accept the meters that were programmed in an unapproved (cost) or time,” Sanders said.
“My hunch of the worst that could happen is it might not be worth doing it this year,” Sanders said Thursday, explaining that the busy summer months will provide crucial data for analyzing after the trial.
Selectman Paul Murphy said he thinks the town will react positively to the proposed changes.
Some residents who have grown accustomed to parking at metered spaces in front of their homes after 6 p.m. have said the meters running later will force them to pay for after-work parking, but Murphy said the later meter times in the morning will also allow residents to run errands before the meters kick on.
“I think there’s going to have to be a trade-off,” Murphy said.
Officials will analyze data collected during the 90-day trial in order to consider further meter changes, including potentially revoking the changes in time and the rate increases or making more adjustments.
“Nothing is final. This is a pilot program, and the hope is just that it will loosen up traffic down there and draw in revenue for the town,” Murphy said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or email@example.com.