Parking Rate Increase Nixed By City Council
There will be no parking meter rate increase in Jamestown — but parking will be on the City Council’s radar in 2024.
After receiving complaints from the community, the City Council unanimously voted Monday to prevent the city administration from doubling the cost of downtown parking meters.
Each City Council member voted to approve an amendment that removed the increase in parking meter revenue that was originally included in the 2023 executive budget. As part of his budget, Mayor Eddie Sundquist had projected an increase of $127,000 in parking meter revenue, bringing the total parking meter revenue budget line to $254,000 by doubling parking meter rates from 25 cents to 50 cents.
The announcement of a parking meter increase for downtown parking prompted concerns from City Council members regarding the implications the parking meter increase could have for local residents. While the city administration explained that the cost of downtown parking is significantly lower than the cost of parking in other cities, local business owners and residents expressed resistance to the increase.
Introducing an amendment for the 2023 budget during Monday’s voting session, City Councilwoman Marie Carrubba, D-Ward IV, explained the reason the City Council members decided against the parking meter increase.
“This is in response to the outcry from the public about doubling the parking meters,” Carrubba said. “We have heard from many people in the public that this was especially going to be very difficult for the business owners downtown.”
City Council President Anthony Dolce, R-Ward II, told the public the amendment would ensure that the city would not be introducing a parking meter change at this point. City Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, also addressed the controversial nature of the parking meter increase. Russell explained that while some people compare the amount of money charged for parking in other cities, he does not believe Jamestown should increase parking costs right now.
“This has been a hot topic,” Russell said. “I don’t think we’re always like other major cities. We’re hopefully in the tail end of a pandemic. I don’t think it’s fair to be pumping this money into our businesses through ARPA funding and then turn around and raise meter rates and discourage people from coming downtown.”
Following the voting session, City Councilwoman Kim Ecklund, R-At Large, told reporters the City Council felt “very strongly” that the parking meter increase needed to be removed from the 2023 budget. Dolce reiterated Russell’s concern regarding the possibility of discouraging businesses by raising the parking meter rates. With businesses still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and various price increases, he said now is not the “right time” for parking meter fees to be increased.
“At this time, we just thought it was not a good idea to increase the parking fees downtown,” he said. “It’s kind of a fragile economy right now. I know several council people received a lot of complaints from residents, as well as business owners downtown.”
Dolce said he has suggested to Sundquist that the city should consider a comprehensive parking plan for the city. Between free parking zones, issues with parking ramps, on-street parking with parking meters and off-street parking, Dolce believes the city needs to examine an “overall picture” of parking rather than simply raising the parking meter rates for the downtown area.
“We should probably start in earnest at the beginning of the year to look at an overall downtown plan,” he said. “I know that we would like to see more utilization and usage of the ramps. We may need to start incentivizing more the usage of the ramps and some of the other off-street lots, so that would all be part of an overall picture of parking downtown. The whole thing needs to be addressed, and before we do that, we don’t want to raise prices.”
Regarding the 2023 budget, Dolce expressed doubt that the city would have attained the revenue projection the city administration anticipated with an increase in parking meter rates. Rather than increasing revenue for the city, Dolce said an increase in parking fees could have discouraged people from parking downtown or created additional problems by residents “clogging up” the free parking zones.