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Originally published: 2013-08-21 10:37:40
Last modified: 2013-08-21 10:38:49

Town considers parking meter options

by Jesse Campbell

While the conversation on which paid parking system will best suit the needs of downtown Boone will continue for at least another month, the Boone Town Council gave at least a hint Tuesday on the direction it will lean.

After hearing the recommendations from the Downtown Boone Development Association, council members indicated they are interested in going with pay stations in the lots on Depot Street and the lot near town hall.

The board is also partial to the idea of installing smart meters on King Street in keeping with the historic feel of the town and cutting down on any potential confusion a pay station may bring.

"We need more hard numbers with either option," said Councilwoman Lynne Mason, in regards to total costs with the pay station and smart meters. "I'm not convinced we have all the information we need to make a complete decision."

Virginia Falck, downtown coordinator for DBDA, said there are numerous benefits and disadvantages with both systems.

While a pay station would cut down "pole clutter" in the downtown, a proposed "pay and display" system could be seen as a hassle or inconvenience to visitors.

The board also posed the question if pay stations in the downtown would also mean more signs and clutter.

Falck also reiterated an earlier stated sentiment that smart meters convey a very simple message to visitors. "You park here, you pay here," she said.

Mason charged the DBDA to come up with a plan on how to pay for any incurring costs associated with either system and to develop a recommendation on how to continue the validation process for visitors who overextended their allotted parking time.

A parking attendant currently monitors one-hour parking in the downtown.

The town also currently operates meters on Queen Street and on Hamby Alley and recently moved some unused meters to a section of King Street near Capone's Pizza.

Businesses receive an allotment of validation stamps from the town to give to customers who receive expired parking time citations. Customers can then place the stamp on their citation to give to the Boone parking office, which will then void the ticket.

Councilman Rennie Brantz said he was also concerned about the costs of the systems.

"Do we need cars in parking spaces 24 hours a day to pay for this?" he said. "In some communities, when meters are put in, people found ways to avoid them. I don't want us to get in a hole here."

Falck added that Boone, being a college town, would always see a high demand for parking in the downtown.

Either system would come with a wireless security system, which is designed to ensure safety of sensitive data, such as from credit cards, a form of payment at the meters or pay station.

Town Manager Greg Young also expressed his concerns in seeing that either system doesn't exceed the town's $400,000 budgeted for parking. He also spoke about the possibility of the town in partnering with the DBDA in covering certain costs.

Mayor Pro Tem Jamie Leigh also said it is "a huge error in parking management" to see parking as a "revenue-producing activity."

The board will reconvene in September to again hear the DBDA's list of recommendations.