FLORENCE — For almost two years, the downtown merchants association has complained that parking along Court Street has become a hindrance to shopping because too many people are using on-street parking all day.
That is about to become more expensive.
The City Council’s Finance Committee voted Wednesday to recommend changes in parking fees and increases in fines.
The committee also recommended purchasing new electronic meters and hand-held electronic readers that would have the capability of creating a database of who has not paid fines as well as where parking problems are most persistent.
“It is time for us to get to a stage where we can figure out who isn’t paying their fines,” said Council President Dick Jordan, who chairs the committee.
He said Downtown Florence Unlimited has been asking for changes in fees and fines because parking spaces along Court Street, the main thoroughfare, are often difficult to find. They have said part of the problem is that business employees use the spaces all day while working. Councilman Barry Morris said that is a problem the city can’t manage, and should become an internal mission of change for the merchants.
Parking rates and fines haven’t been adjusted in so long none of the committee members could remember when they were last changed.
The fees would be 25 cents for an hour, 10 cents for half an hour, and 5 cents for 12 minutes. The fine for a parking violation would be $5 instead of $2, and if unpaid in seven days, the fine would increase to $25.
City treasurer Dan Barger said the city collects $70,000 a year on parking meters, and more from fines.
An ad hoc committee of Police Chief Ron Tyler, City Clerk Bob Leyde and city attorney Billy Musgrove also presented information about new electronic meters.
It would cost about $100,000 to change out the 545 meter heads and buy the hand-held readers.
Councilman Morris said the revenue from meter collections and fines would reimburse those costs in a year.
Frank Chaney, of the city clerk’s office, encouraged the council to re-evaluate fees for the downtown parking deck. He said it costs more to use the deck than to park on the street, which could be discouraging downtown employees from using the deck.
Mayor Mickey Haddock said the goal of the changes is not to create a source of revenue but to keep traffic cycling in and out of downtown parking spaces to help businesses and encourage shopping.
Chaney said if the council adopts the recommendations, Florence will still have the cheapest parking fees in the state.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.