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City: Let shoppers park at meters

May 22, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown will encourage downtown employers to stop their employees from parking at metered parking spaces so they'll be available for downtown visitors and customers, Finance Director Alfred Martin said Wednesday.

Martin said he and Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Everhart plan to meet with major downtown employers to remind them of the availability of parking spaces in the parking deck and elsewhere off the city streets.

He will give them an updated map showing the location of public parking downtown, he said.

The plan follows the city's decision to modify a proposal that would have raised parking meter rates citywide from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour.

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Downtown merchants who had said the increase might hurt businesses and downtown revitalization efforts praised the city for developing an alternate proposal in which the meter rates would be increased elsewhere in the city but not at meters in the downtown shopping area.

Peggy Cushwa, who was a leader in the fight against the meter rate hike, said Wednesday that many customers of her store, Maggie's Hang-Ups, and other downtown businesses, refuse to park in the parking deck, preferring to park on the street near businesses.

City officials and downtown merchants said some people who work downtown park at meters in front of businesses, and periodically feed the meters throughout the day.

"This is a problem. This is making it harder for customers," Cushwa said.

City officials mentioned the need for more turnover of parking spaces during discussions about the meter hike.

While merchants and city officials initially disagreed about whether downtown parking meter rates should be increased, they agreed that something needs to be done about employees who park long-term at metered spaces, Cushwa said.

Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop said county employees are told to park in lots instead of on city streets.

David Engle, director of the Washington County Department of Social Services, made similar remarks but said some department employees park short-term at meters near the offices at 112 N. Potomac St.

The employees can park for free at nearby lots so they have a financial incentive not to park on Potomac, but some still park along the street, he said.

Martin said city employees are given long-term parking spaces and are told not to park at metered spaces.

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