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Easton City Council set to vote on doubling parking meter rates

Published On: Dec 12 2012 12:00:10 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 12 2012 06:33:31 AM EST

City Council on Wednesday night is expected to vote on doubling parking meter rates when the 2013 municipal budget is considered for final adoption.

Council during its Tuesday night finance committee meeting indicated general support for a plan to increase hourly parking meter rates from 50 cents to a dollar at the city‘s 936 meters. The plan also calls for expanding parking meter hours until 8 p.m. Monday though Saturday, and for the first time establishing meter hours on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Mayor Sal Panto has said the goal of Sunday metering would be to draw fares from visitors to Crayola.

Panto on Tuesday night noted that the changes in parking meter hours represents a “moving target” that can be re-examined at any time going forward. Since unveiling the proposed meter changes, several business owners have criticized both the new rates and revised hours.

Easton officials have said the main thrust for the parking rate increase is to create a dedicated funding stream for the Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP), whose main  programs include the Easton Main Street Initiative, center square farmers’ market and Ambassadors effort to improve the cleanliness and safety of the downtown.

The proposed $1 per hour rate represents a jump from the mayor’s original plan to increase hourly rates to 75 cents when the preliminary 2013 city budget was unveiled in early-October.

That original 75-cent increase and expanded hours proposal was estimated to bring $235,000 in additional revenue for GEDP programs, which will help further the city’s goal of making this organization less reliant on funds from the general municipal budget.

City officials had appeared to be set with a 75-cent increase until being barraged with unforeseen sewer utility expenses totaling $160,000. Instead of increasing sewer rates or cutting into discretionary funding such as the GEDP, City Finance Director Chris Heagele said the administration preferred to use an additional $100,000 generated from a $1 hourly meter rate and a $60,000 bump in shared Sands casino revenue to offset the sewer utility expenses.

Council members’ concerns over Sunday meter hours impacting downtown churches seemed to have been addressed to their satisfaction through a plan to have passes for church members to place in their cars when attending morning services or programs that may last beyond noontime.

The increased sewer utility expenses have increased the total 2013 city budget plan to $31.4 million. Under the budget, real estate taxes will not increase.

Based on Tuesday night’s council finance committee discussion, council appears ready to move forward with adopting the budget and laying to rest the ongoing discussion over parking meter rates.

Councilwoman Elinor Warner said she for one is ready to move on.

“I am done talking about parking for the rest of my life,” she exclaimed.