Council may delay its plan to bag downtown meters for a 45-day “free parking” trial run—at least for now.
During a discussion at its agenda meeting Monday, some members of council, as well as Mayor David H. Rhome, questioned how permit parking—which is paid in advance and guarantees a parking space—would be handled during those 45 days.
Rhome also said the borough may lose up to $7,500 in meter income, and that one of his employees—his parking enforcement officer—would have little to do during that 45-day period.
Some members of council, as well as the mayor and police chief, also said they were concerned that "homesteaders" would take up the free spaces.
The feasibility of free two-hour parking was mentioned, and many members of council said it was unfortunate there was not more input from local merchants on the matter.
But council President John Bevec reiterated several times: Council has to try something to spur economic development downtown.
“We need to consider change if we are going to move forward. This experiment might not work, but it also might work," he told fellow members of council. "We know the merchants have been saying free parking will help business. Now we can find out if that’s true.”
In reference to what to tell those who have permit parking, both Councilman Rich Russo and Bevec said that permit parking guarantees a spot, unlike free parking.
Bevec added: “Parking is never free—someone is always paying for parking, whether it’s the customer or the business or the borough. If bagging the meters generates more business, that’s great, we’ve answered the question, but ultimately someone is going to have to pay for that parking space.”
A motion for free parking from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 will remain on the agenda, but Bevec said it is likely council will delay the vote pending input from other communities which offer free parking—such as Waynesburg and Sewickley.