Parking proposal supported

April 09, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

A majority of the Hagerstown City Council expressed support during a Tuesday work session for doubling the cost of parking meters to 50 cents per hour, provided the city works with downtown merchants to find a way to address their concerns that businesses may be hurt by the change.

Some downtown merchants have said the parking rate increase would make their job of drawing customers downtown more difficult and could turn some customers away. Council members reported getting calls from merchants questioning the proposal.

Some downtown businesses reported a drop in sales during parts of 2002 as the result of state Streetscape work. While that work was going on, some traffic lanes were temporarily closed and parking on West Washington and West Franklin streets was reduced.


Councilman Lewis C. Metzner expressed skepticism Tuesday that shoppers would decide not to come downtown to shop based on a quarter increase.

"I think there is much ado about nothing," he said.

The city budget proposed last week by City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman calls for increasing the parking meter rates from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour and raising parking fines for expired meters from $7 to $10.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 also calls for increasing the monthly permit fees for the parking deck from $40 to $45.

The city is proposing the changes, estimated to bring in an additional $300,000, to pay for parking expenses that otherwise would have to be subsidized by the general fund, Finance Director Al Martin said.

Councilwoman Carol Moller raised the merchants' concerns during a discussion of the proposed $84.2 million budget at Tuesday's work session.

Metzner said city staff should work with downtown merchants so they can find a way to reimburse customers for parking costs, or develop some other way of defraying costs.

But Metzner said most people who come downtown are not there to shop, but are there because they work downtown or are going to a bank or government agency.

"I don't want to see us kill this thing for the other people who come downtown," he said.

Hagerstown Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Everhart said she plans to meet with merchants about their concerns.

The city manages 1,688 metered or permitted spaces, she said.

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