City Facing Challenge With New Parking Meters

The city is struggling to address issues with new parking meters downtown due to problems with solar charging. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

The city is currently facing an issue with the new parking meters downtown due to a problem with the solar charging of the parking meter batteries during the winter.

City Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, told the City Council and the city administration that he received a phone call from a constituent “just prior” to last week’s work session meeting.

“She called me with some concerns about the parking meters, specifically with the apps,” he said. “She talked about having lunch at her son’s restaurant the other day with some girl friends of hers and she was having some issues using the app.”

Russell shared that the local resident’s complaint was that some parking meters, particularly handicapped space parking meters, were only accessible with the app, which can cause difficulties for many Jamestown residents. Russell also said the issue caused the concerned resident to have to walk further to locate a parking meter that would accept coins after recently undergoing back surgery.

“Her exact words to me was that she’s not against advancements,” he said. “She understands that we need to move forward with technology and not be stuck in the past, but just wanted to make me aware that there are people that are struggling, the senior community, with using the apps downtown and she feels that that could potentially drive people away, not want to come down seniors and then in her son’s case wouldn’t want to be frequenting restaurants because of that. I told her that I would bring that forward. She said she did call the mayor’s office to speak to someone the other day, but she also wanted it to be known in front of the council.”

Pictured, from left, are City Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large and City Councilman Randy Daversa, R-At Large, during last week’s work session.

Mayor Eddie Sundquist told City Council members he was trying not to “unload” his “anger” toward the city’s current meter provider. He explained that city employees are not to blame for the current issue with the parking meters. Instead, he told the City Council that the company the city purchased the meters from under the state’s grant and contract has caused severe issues with Jamestown’s parking meters.

“We are awaiting updated meter components and batteries for a good chunk of our meters,” he said. “They did not survive the winter, which was a huge issue.”

Sundquist explained that some of the new parking meters in Jamestown have been temporarily “replaced” with coin parking meters that can be used until the city receives new batteries for the parking meters.

“You’ll notice that some of the meters have actually been replaced just with the coin,” he said. “We’ve kind of retrofitted them to just use the coins in the meantime.”

Unfortunately, Sundquist said some of the meters are not able to “handle” the coin payment due to the way they are “shaped.” Sundquist expressed his frustration that the city is “going on almost two months” of not receiving the batteries from the company. He added that the city has had a “lot of issues” with the company it is required to purchase the batteries from for the parking meters as part of its agreement.

“We’re working through that, and this is the nice way of me saying thank you for bringing it up, because we’ve had lots of discussions and lots of angry phone calls with the folks that service our meters, but we are working on and we’ll give you an update,” Sundquist said.

Jeff Lehman, Public Works director, told City Council members that there is “no other place” to purchase the batteries required for the new city parking meters. He added that the city is currently at the “mercy” of the company and that the process of acquiring new batteries and parts for the parking meters has already taken “more than two months.”

“The problem is there’s a solar charger on these batteries when we get into these months,” Lehman said. “They worked fine all summer long, and then they’re not recharging.”

In response to Sundquist and Lehman, Russell said the resident who expressed concern to him simply said it would “be nice” if local residents had the option to pay for parking with coins or with the app.

“That is the way it was designed, but not currently working and this was me being nice about it,” Sundquist said. “These meters only accept one battery type and it must be purchased from that company.”

City Councilman Andrew Faulkner, R-Ward VI, asked when the city would be able to get out of the contract with the company. Sundquist explained that the city would not be able to get out of the contract unless the city put in all new parking meters.


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