Council willing to consider parking meter alternatives

LISBON — While village council still appears opposed to eliminating parking meters, it is willing to consider alternatives if it continues to generate enough revenue to pay for a meter reader.

That is what came from this week’s council meeting after Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce president Susan Shank and executive director Marilyn McCullough returned to again ask that parking meters be eliminated in the belief the meters and the $10 parking tickets that sometimes result are discouraging people from shopping in the village’s downtown business district.

The chamber asked council in January to consider removing the parking meters and council has been kicking the idea around since, but there does not appear to be any interest in doing so. Meters and parking fines generated $40,554 last year, of which about $16,000 covers the cost of the meter maid and related expenses. The remainder is used to help pay for new police cruisers.

Shank suggested council eliminate parking meters for six months and switch to a two-hour parking limit, with the meter reader chalking tires. She said officials would be able to determine after six months whether this would generate enough revenue to continue paying for the meter reader.

Police Chief Mike Abraham is opposed to using a police officer to chalk tires, and Mayor Joe Morenz doubts such a system would generate enough revenue to pay for the meter maid to do the job, let alone a police officer. “We can’t have a meter maid we pay $9 an hour and replace them with a cop making $16. How is that supposed to work out,” he said.

Council president Roger Gallo said when while visiting Lakewood recently he noticed the meters have a button that provides 15 minutes of free parking. “It piqued my interest as something we could look into” for Lisbon, he said.

Morenz suggested having the businesses pay a monthly meter fee to free up a parking spot in front of their store. Although anyone would still be free to park there, it still might help the business. He said the fee would likely be about $25-$30 a month based on what the average parking meter generates.

“If someone wanted to purchase one, two, three meters in front of their business they can do that, but the 2-hour (parking ban) would still be enforced because we want those parking spots to turn over,” Morenz said.

Carol Nutter sent the village an email in support of keeping the meters because there are no parking alternatives where she works at an East Washington Street business. Nutter feeds the meter every two hours while at work, and she said it is a convenience to park outside the business because of her bad knees and hip.

Chamber member Stevie Halverstadt noted none of the other communities in Columbiana County have parking meters and they chalk tires and she wondered how they have made it work.

“Every other village doesn’t have a courthouse,” Gallo said, referring to the fact downtown Lisbon is home to the county courthouse. Gallo, Morenz and Chief Abraham are of the opinion that should the meters be eliminated, most of those spots will be taken not by people shopping downtown but by county courthouse workers and even business employees themselves who are too lazy to park farther away.

Gallo noted parking meters were eliminated during the downtown revitalization project of the early 2000s but were brought back at the request of businesses, and he predicted the same thing would happen this time. “We’ve been through this before, but I don’t think eliminating the meters is something you will like,” he told the chamber.

Chamber director McCullough knows of one business that is threatening to leave town after four customers received parking tickets in one day. “We don’t want to lose what we have,” she said.

Gallo cannot understand how anyone feels “victimized” by the village’s meter system when 25 cents will buy you an hour.

After debating the issue some more, council finally decided to resume discussion at a street committee meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. March 6. This is to give Gallo time to investigate whether the meters could be retrofitted with a push button to allow for 15 minutes of free parking. Chamber president Shank will use the time to explore how other communities are able to get by without parking meters.