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Plan to raise meter rates revised

May 14, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown has modified a proposal to increase parking meter rates citywide after downtown merchants complained it would hurt downtown revitalization efforts and possibly deter shoppers.

At a meeting with downtown merchants Tuesday morning, Finance Director Alfred Martin presented an alternative proposal to increase parking revenues without raising the rates from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour.

About 10 merchants at the meeting, called to address the merchants concerns, praised Martin's plan and some sent thank-you notes to the Hagerstown City Council prior to its evening meeting, city officials said.

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Under the alternative plan, the city still would increase the monthly permit fees for the parking deck from $40 to $45 and raise parking fines for expired meters from $7 to $10.

But while parking meter rates still would go from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour around Washington County Hospital, meters in the downtown shopping area will retain the 25 cents per hour rate.

Parking meters in a new Antietam Street lot near Washington County District Court would increase from 50 cents to $1 per hour.

Martin proposed the city reduce by $54,000 how much it put in the parking fund reserves for next year.

"I think it was a good compromise. It was really good of the city, given their budget constraints," Tom Newcomer, president of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, said Tuesday night. Newcomer attended the Tuesday morning meeting and spoke against the meter increase at a prior public hearing.

Council members thanked Martin for developing the proposal, which is part of the city's $84.1 million proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

While council members said they were pleased with the overall progress on the budget, on which a vote is scheduled for May 27, one contentious area remained: The distribution of federal Community Development Block Grant money.

The proposed budget suggested distributing $357,415 to nonprofit agencies but one of the recipients, the Community Action Council, asked the city to reconsider giving them about $10,000 less than requested.

The issue became more complicated Tuesday when Carolyn Brooks, the coordinator of the HotSpots Communities program in Hagerstown, asked for $50,000 from the fund to help pay for the program.

The program's funding is being slashed by the state government this year but the exact amount of the cuts is not yet known, she said. She said she has heard estimates that the program's funding will be cut in half.

Her late requests for $50,000 each from the city and county governments were related to the state funding uncertainty, she said.

After trying to decide what needy agency to cut to find money for the program, the council asked staff to do further analysis of that section of the budget and return with suggestions.

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