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Easton mulls parking meter rate hike

Published On: Oct 10 2012 09:54:39 PM EDT
Easton Mayor Sal Panto

A parking meter rate increase of 25 cents per hour and an expansion in the daily hours of parking enforcement are among the key items proposed in an overhaul of the municipal parking management system being presented by the city administration.

Whether or not City Council buys into the entire overhaul as proposed remains to be seen.

During Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, City Administrator Glenn Steckman detailed the proposed parking management system overhaul. He said the main goal of the proposed rate increase, from 50 cents to 75 cents an hour, 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.

Another goal of the proposed changes, Steckman said, would be to “fund future parking management system growth.”

Steckman said the proposed parking meter rate increase to 75 cents per hour would be compliant with current city ordinance. The city currently operates 936 meters.

In addition to the rate increase, the hours of parking enforcement from Monday to Saturday would increase from the current timeframe of 8 a.m.-6 p.m. to 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

These changes are 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. The $235,000 estimate only includes rate increase revenues and does not take into consideration fines, said City Finance Director Chris Heagele.

The proposal also includes the enforcement of certain downtown parking meters on Sunday from 12-5 p.m. on Northampton Street or south of Northampton Street including the entire Center Square area.

Mayor Sal Panto said the goal of Sunday metering would be to draw fares from visitors to Crayola.

The administration’s proposal drew mixed feelings from City Council members.

Councilman Roger Ruggles said he is concerned the proposal to have only a portion of the meters in operation on Sundays could create confusion. “Either do the whole city or don’t do any of it,” he said.

Some council members raised the possibility of making the Monday to Saturday meter hours 10 a.m.-10 p.m., to gain fares from the night-time traffic that frequents various downtown establishments.

Councilman Michael Fleck proposed raising meter fares to $1 per hour, which failed to muster support from other council members.

“I think it would send tremendous shockwaves through the community if we went up to $1 per hour,” Councilman Jeff Warren said.

Mayor Sal Panto said the administration will take the council members’ various suggestions in consideration to create alternate proposals for consideration.

Council is expected to come to a final decision on the proposed meter changes when it votes to adopt the pending 2013 municipal budget.

If approved, the changes would take effect Jan. 1, Steckman said.

Other parking management system highlighted in Steckman’s presentation to council include:

-- Increasing the use of technology by: installing credit card meters on 200 meters at an estimated cost of $100,000 and installing multi-space boxes at the South Third Street lot, the Joseph’s lot on Northampton Street and the North Third Street lot at an estimated cost of $24,000 to $40,000.

-- Discounting all parking tickets paid within 24 hours of issuance by $5.

-- Merchant and business owner outreach includes: partnering with the Easton Main Street Initiative to create an educational campaign encouraging merchants and their employees to park away from prime parking locations, as well as creating and distributing parking space maps.