It is not unusual to find much less activity these days in downtown Indiana, not to mention plenty of parking spaces.
“I’m sure if you take a walk down Philadelphia Street, it is obviously less,” said Hank Kukula, who marked his first anniversary as borough parking coordinator on April 1.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with stay-at-home orders from Gov. Tom Wolf and businesses being limited to take-out only, it is not a surprise to Kukula and other borough officials.
“Obviously meter parking is down, our folks using the parking garage is going to be down,” borough Manager C. Michael Foote said.
But specific figures won’t be available for a while.
“We may not have any hard numbers (until) the end of the second quarter,” Foote said, when those statistics can be compared to the first quarter of 2020.
“We have several revenue streams, fines, meter revenue, garage revenue, lots and different zones,” Kukula said. “All these different revenue streams are affected, like any other business in the borough.”
And parking is treated differently from the borough’s general fund.
“We need to think about the parking fund as it is, as an enterprise fund,” Foote said. “They’re separate from the general fund. The general fund is somewhat insulated from it.”
With less parking to enforce, there is the question of staffing. Foote said there have been no layoffs of parking enforcement personnel, or of any other borough staff.
However, he said Thursday, “We are assessing borough operations as we speak,” and conceded that action could be taken “at any time.” Shortly thereafter, the borough announced that hourly, non-uniform personnel had their hours shortened from eight to six per day.
In the wake of the borough’s declaration of a state of emergency, there were temporary modifications made to Indiana’s parking policy. The borough Parking Department previously announced that, through Wednesday, it would give patrons of local businesses an opportunity to park for free for up to one hour.
“The intention is to provide convenient, short-duration parking,” Foote said last month. “This enables shoppers and people doing other business in the borough ample time to pick up food … supplies or any other items that our businesses offer.”
Borough officials said the decision was made in consultation and collaboration with community partners Downtown Indiana Inc., Indiana County Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana County Tourist Bureau.
On Friday, borough communications coordinator Kyle Mudry said, “free parking during the first hour has been extended and will stay in place until the governor’s stay-at-home order is lifted.”
The borough manager also pointed to resources that are providing guidance as to how to do things appropriately,
“We certainly welcome folks coming in to frequent their favorite restaurant,” Foote said. “Please wear a mask, wear gloves where appropriate. Try to just be one person at a time, and just be safe.”
Some of those resources can be found on the www.indianaboro.com website, including a link to a “Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act” or “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act,” which was discussed last week when Foote joined several other local leaders from southwestern Pennsylvania in a conference call with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.
Prior to the call, borough officials said, there were discussions with those aforementioned community partners. They said on their website that “aiding small businesses is a main focus for all of us.”