Parking Meter Issue Highlighted At City Council
Mayor Eddie Sundquist cited “miscommunication” between the city and POM Parking Meters during Monday night’s City Council work session meeting in response to questions regarding the current parking meter issue.
Sundquist provided City Council members with an update regarding the parking meter issue and addressed the “miscommunication” between the city and POM Parking Meters.
Following Sundquist’s comments regarding the parking meter battery issue during the first work session in March, Seth Ward, president of POM Parking Meters, responded to the city by claiming that the city had never ordered replacement batteries for the parking meters.
In a statement sent to Sundquist prior to Monday’s City Council meeting, Ward claimed the city had not paid its parking meter bills for January and February. Ward also provided the city with a quote for the replacement batteries; however, he said the city would have to take certain steps prior to the shipment of the batteries.
“What you will need to do in advance is retract, in writing, the false and defamatory statements you made about our company,” he said.
Ward said the city needed to publicly state that the replacement batteries had not been ordered previously and that the dead batteries were the “only thing wrong” with the parking meters.
“Once we have received the retraction and a purchase order, we will have the batteries on the way and will send you a tracking number,” he said.
During Monday’s work session meeting, Sundquist responded to the company’s recent statements.
“We deal with thousands of vendors here in the city,” he said. “We’ve never had a CEO respond like that to us.”
Providing a “brief history” of the city’s relationship with POM Parking Meters, Sundquist told the City Council that the meters were originally purchased under a state grant.
The state grant also required the city to purchase parking meters through POM Parking Meters.
“They’ve had some challenges along the way with installing these meters and keeping these meters up,” Sundquist said.
While Sundquist acknowledged that the company’s CEO has reached out to the city, he said the city has been involved in communication with POM Parking Meters since December of 2022. According to Sundquist, these communications include phone calls, emails and messages about issues the city has had with the parking meters, the parking meter batteries and the purchase of replacement batteries.
“I will say we did confirm with our finance staff that the purchase order did not go through to purchase the batteries, which we did rectify today with the CEO, but there were various issues as we found out, a huge miscommunication between the fact that the city also deals with an outside vendor, an inside vendor of this company, as well as customer support and a few others that are all part of this chain in order to order these batteries,” he said.
Sundquist told City Council members that the city ordered batteries to replace “dead” parking meter batteries downtown; however, as of Tuesday, the CEO of POM Parking Meters said the city had “absolutely not” ordered the replacement batteries.
Sundquist said the city is currently working with POM Parking Meters to determine what to do “going forward,” as the use of the new meters has cost the city “significantly more” money since the initial installation.
“Not only are we having to purchase batteries, which are, as mentioned last time, only sold by this company, we also have a monthly fee for each of these meters that we are continuing to charge even if there’s no battery,” he said.
While Sundquist explained that the city had to “accept all those things” as part of the original grant, he said the city is considering the possibility of talking to other “potential” parking meter companies to determine whether the city could utilize different parking meter technology, which he said has changed “pretty significantly” over the past couple years.
“We continue to work with those partners to try to figure out what do we do moving forward,” he said.
Asked for further details regarding communication with the parking meter company, Sundquist told City Council members that the city purchased the original parking meters from an outside sales representative, works with an inside sales representative for service and support and also works with the company’s customer support service.
“Obviously there’s been some miscommunication along the way with the various representatives,” he said. “We’re working with them to try to figure it out. At the end of the day, they’re meters, guys, we’ll figure them out and move forward and we’ll get those things squared away.”
Asked by City Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, if it was correct that the cost of the newer parking meters is roughly $5 per meter each month, Sundquist confirmed that the cost is about $5 per month for each meter.
Russell also asked Sundquist if the city had documentation the City Council could see of the emails and phone calls Sundquist claims were made to each of the company’s representatives to show that the city acted in “good faith” by reaching out to the company. City Councilwoman Kim Ecklund, R-At Large, also expressed interest in seeing the documentation.
“We’re happy to, if requested, to send those to you all,” Sundquist said. “At the end of the day, the company will not warranty any of the batteries, or any of the parts. We are out of the warranty, so they said, ‘You’ll have to buy new things.’
Sundquist also encouraged City Council members to contact Patricia Culliton, manager of the parking meters, for more information regarding parking meter issues. He added that Culliton maintains a record of every issue each meter has had since the installation of the new parking meters.
Following Sundquist’s remarks, Jeff Lehman, Department of Public Works director, claimed that the issue with the parking meters has been “sugarcoated.”
“It’s been a nightmare the past year with this company,” he said. “They haven’t been very responsive.”
Asked by Ecklund what other “nightmare” issues the city has had with the parking meters, Lehman said some of the parking meter buttons froze during the winter, despite assurances by the company that the buttons would not freeze.
City Councilwoman Marie Carrubba, D-Ward IV, asked Sundquist and Lehman if other municipalities in New York state have had the same issues with POM Parking Meters.
“My understanding is that there have been other municipalities that had issues, but I don’t have a specific list,” Sundquist said.?