GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 12, 2013

Officials eye new parking meters

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — With the $55,000 approved at Saturday’s Annual Town meeting, officials are looking to fast track the installation of new parking meters — and increase the town’s parking rates to reel in added revenue as well.

During a Board of Selectmen workshop on Tuesday, officials gathered to discuss the possibility of raising the rates of parking in the town, where new meters should go and what types of parking meters should be used.

The first of four steps calls for replacing 111 of the 270 meters in town, but the total project would be completed throughout a four-year process, officials say.

Police Chief John “Tom” McCarthy said the first areas would be the same one used in a pilot program last year.

Meanwhile, the parking meter rate charge has remained at 50 cents an hour four about nine years, but town leaders are looking to boost that to $1 an hour in conjunction with the new meters.

The town saw $172,475 in revenue in 2012 from the pilot program, up about $35,000 from 2011.

McCarthy said the gain was not solely due to the new meters or additional use; the 90-day pilot program utilized late last summer and into fall had also included an increased parking rate to one dollar an hour.

He noted the pilot program was largely successful, the only real complaints came from confusion about times and areas the meters were active — running from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Officials weighed the pros and cons of kiosks and meters during the workshop.

Selectwoman Sarah Wilkinson said that, from her own experience, parking kiosks are not always user friendly, while some often break down and are not readily repaired.

“It’s a total pain in the neck,” she said.

Selectman Wilhelmina Sheedy-Mores, however, said kiosks might serve some areas in town better than others, they would allow more room on narrow sidewalks.

Officials also considered the options of different rates for residents in certain areas — as well as allowing the first five or 10 minutes to be free, allowing someone to run a quick errand without feeding the meter.

Department of Public Works director Joe Parisi, however, described the process of removing the meters in the winter as a “waste of labor,” kiosks or new meters could allow more space for snow plows and would not have to be removed.

The removal process also damages the meters through normal wear and tear.

Officials noted as during the pilot program, the rates, hours of operation and maximum and minimum limits can all be easily programmed into new meters.

McCarthy said with a debit or credit swipe, one hour can be purchased at a time.

Rockport police Sgt. Robert Tibert noted the new meters are easier to read and would not likely need lock changes or key replacements, which can be costly and time consuming.

“You can’t expect people to put money into meters they can’t read,” he said.

Officials said rates would need to be increased for the new meters in order to make them financially sound. The next step is to hold a public hearing and put out a proposal request for the new meters.

A tentative public hearing date is set for April 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, prior to a Board of Selectmen meeting.

Officials hope to have the meters in place by early July.

“This sounds like a slam dunk to me,” selectmen Paul Murphy said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.