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BLAIRSVILLE: Borough council moves to crack down on parking

by on April 16, 2014 10:55 AM

BLAIRSVILLE — Parking scofflaws take note: Your time may be at an end in Blairsville.

Borough council on Tuesday moved toward hiring a part-time meter attendant by agreeing to advertise the opening.

The borough hasn’t had a meter attendant in years, and the responsibility for enforcing parking rules currently falls to the police department.

But enforcement has been lax, and the public is well aware of it, parking authority board member Joe Nease told council yesterday. Nease said that as he’s walked borough streets, he has heard people telling drivers that they don’t have to worry about feeding the meters because no one checks them.

Council’s action came on the heels of report from Nease, who said he found that 76 percent of the borough’s meters aren’t being fed.

Nease told council he arrived at that number by having walked past every metered spot in the borough, counting which spaces were occupied and which were empty. And of the occupied spots, he looked at whether the meter was expired.

He made the count three times, he said, once each day around noon on three different days in late March and early this month. He then averaged the results.

Based on that number and some other back-of-the-envelope math, he estimates the borough is losing nearly $34,000 annually in parking meter revenue, he said, owing to lax enforcement. The figure assumes meter revenue of $10,800 on the year, a projection based on first-quarter collections.

But Nease said he was not suggesting council take action simply for the sake of boosting meter revenue. He said better enforcement of parking rules would ultimately help the downtown.

Nease said that without enforcement, people can park their vehicles along Market Street and leave them there all day without fear of penalty, hogging spaces that patrons of downtown businesses might have otherwise used. Borough manager Tim Evans said he has, in fact, received complaints from business owners about that very thing.

Nease said that as he and the parking authority sees it, the borough has three options with respect to the situation. It could do nothing. Or it could remove the meters entirely. Or, he said, it could bolster enforcement of parking limits.

Doing nothing would essentially be the same as pulling the meters, he said, because either way, drivers will park for extended times on Market Street. He and authority Chairman DeWayne Dills, who also attended the meeting, said the only choice that makes senses is to improve enforcement.

Their appearance at the meeting, and council’s subsequent action, follows several past conversations between the authority and Evans, Nease said.

The parking authority had been dormant, but was reactivated in May 2012 to address parking issues throughout the borough.

Council apparently had anticipated making such a move — it already had a job description drawn up by the borough’s labor negotiator.

However, not all on council thought that the borough should step up enforcement of parking rules.

Councilman Jeff Mollo opposed the move, which was approved on a 4-1 vote.

Mollo said he worried that diligent enforcement would drive away business from downtown.

“I think we’re going to chase people out of Blairsville,” he said.

But others on council said the borough is doing that now. By not enforcing the rules, drivers are emboldened to park as long as they please, making it harder for others to get to downtown shops, they said.

To accommodate the new position, council plans on moving the police department’s clerk, who splits her time between the department and the municipal authority, fully over to the municipal authority. Whoever is hired as the meter attendant will also serve as the police department clerk.

Council expects to pay for the position through increased meter revenue.

Along with better enforcement, Dills also said council should consider revisiting the borough’s parking ordinance, which hasn’t been looked at since 1998. Council agreed, and asked the authority to report back with some recommendations.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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