Town eyeing downtown pay stations
by Anna Oakes
The council scheduled the meeting with Downtown Boone Development Association representatives, McLaurin Parking and town staff to discuss the planned implementation of parking meters in downtown Boone, a decision the council reached during the town budget process in June.
But Steve McLaurin of McLaurin Parking, which manages parking in downtown Boone, suggested that the town install pay stations for multiple spaces instead of double-head parking meters, noting that stations are easier to monitor, accept credit card payments and can be programmed for different time limits for different days of the week or special events.
The council and DBDA members had previously expressed concerns about the costs of pay stations, which Town Manager Greg Young said would cost an estimated $16,000 to $17,000 per station.
But McLaurin said his company could purchase the stations up front, with the town paying the cost back during several years. He estimated the downtown area would require 24 stations at approximately $300,000, but he said he would provide a more detailed analysis to the town by Friday.
The town council had budgeted $88,000 for the purchase of new parking meters and one pay station for the Depot Street parking lot downtown, with half of the funding coming from Municipal Service District (downtown) tax revenues. Council members said they hoped to install the meters by Sept. 1.
The town 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. McLaurin said revenue from that section alone amounted to $1,202 in the month since they were installed.
Public works staff said parking meters do come with maintenance costs, noting that nearly all of the town's current parking meters have required the replacement of electronic mechanisms that cost about $185 per meter.
McLaurin said pay stations installed in other towns have lasted eight or nine years but that they are currently being replaced with stations featuring improved technology.
Boone downtown coordinator Virginia Falck said the DBDA board recommends that parking on King Street be limited to one hour at a cost of 50 cents every 20 minutes, or $1.50 an hour. That way, drivers who wish to exceed the hour time limit don't have to move their vehicles, but must return to feed the meter.
"The DBDA would like to see a higher turnover," Falck said.
Council members questioned whether pay stations would provide the ability to reduce parking signage downtown or if they would require the same amount or even more signage.
The council is slated to discuss the matter again at next week's regular council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at Council Chambers.