City council votes for parking meters to help businesses

In response to complaints that parking spaces weren’t available for retail and restaurant businesses downtown, City Council voted Wednesday to approve the purchase of 262 high-tech parking meters to help parking turnover.

The vote had one dissenting vote from Ward 4 Councilman John Kuhar, who said, “I don’t think the public should have to pay to park on a public street that they paid to put in.”

Ward 3 Councilman Wayne Wilson responded that businesses have complained of cars taking up parking spaces all day long.

“They want those spaces turned over, and that was one of the ways we came up with to turn those over was to put meters there,” Wilson responded to Kuhar, “And I think it makes very good sense to do that as opposed to hiring more police to go around marking tires and costing us money, as opposed to this way of doing it. So I support it.”

City Manager Dave Ruller said business owners are anxious for the parking issue to be resolved. He refers to the meters as “quarters for commerce.”

“It’s putting a couple quarters in the machine to support the commerce of downtown,” he said. “All we heard for decades was ‘We need restaurants, we need retail, we need this stuff downtown.’ We finally went out and got it. And now that it’s here, they’re saying, ‘Help us succeed and survive,’ and this is one way we can help them.”

The meters were approved by the Streets, Sidewalks, & Utilities Committee on Jan. 8. According to the meeting minutes, the meters can be paid with coins, tokens, credit cards, Google wallets or by smartphone app and are powered by solar panels.

The minutes also said that on average, the city would get $.75 for every dollar put in the meter and the remaining $.25 would go to the meter company. Director of community development Bridget Susel said she spoke with Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo officials about the program. Cincinnati has 1,400 high-tech meters, Columbus purchased 2,000 and Toledo is buying 300 after a successful trial of 30.

Ruller said it is too early to predict how the meters will be received, and details like pricing and times still need to be ironed out. But he said that the council would be very flexible during the process.

“At the detail level it’s too soon, it’s premature,” he said. “We don’t even know what the program’s going to be. At the bigger level, sure, we’re always worried, ‘Does [having] meters discourage people?’ because they have to put some money in. But we were very, very thoughtful in the process.”

Contact Rebecca Reis at [email protected]