Déjà vu all over again
Paid parking begins today in City
ST. ALBANS CITY –– Starting today, motorists must pay to park in St. Albans under a long-planned, permit system that affects three municipal lots.
In late January, aldermen voted unanimously to restart a fee-based parking program today – July 1 – by issuing permits for the so-called core lot (between Federal, Kingman and Lake streets), the lot behind city hall, and the Lake Street courthouse lot.
The permits cost $100 for one year and $60 for six months. Prices are the same for residential and commercial users, but they have different-colored stickers, which must be visible within a vehicle; otherwise, a ticket is likely to be issued.
When the city formulated its parking plan last winter, as a means of generating revenue to improve all the lots, it was estimated that 187 residential and 187 commercial permits would be available.
As of this morning, the city had issued 42 residential and 180 business permits, meaning there are still plenty available through the St. Albans City Police Department.
When the permits were free, from February until the end of June, the city dispensed more than 300 of them.
“There’s plenty of parking,” said Dominic Cloud, city manager.
Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans (BFA) students will be eligible for the permits; that wasn’t the case in the past.
Work has already started on a major overhaul of the courthouse parking lot – Lot #2 – which will be metered by the end of this month. The cost to park in those 71 spaces will be 75 cents an hour or $3 per day, and the machines will accept cards or change.
The city borrowed $100,000 to pave, strip, curb, light, meter, and install security cameras in Lot #2. The city will repay the loan with parking revenue.
The city owns the entire lot, but when the state built the new district courthouse in the 1980s, the city agreed to allow it to use the spaces on the side of the red brick building. That agreement will stand, meaning permits are not necessary for motorists parking directly along the courthouse, to the right of the Lake Street entrance.
There is also a program available for downtown merchants with part-time employees that wish to share their parking passes.
Enforcement hours in the municipal lots are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Parking in the lots is free on Sundays and holidays.
Since January, the city has blitzed regular users of the lots with reminders about the permits: once in early May, via a press release and fliers posted on windshields; twice this month, with more fliers; and by interacting regularly with people who obtained the free permits, starting in February.
“I think we have gone out of our way to make sure people are informed,” said Gary Taylor, city police chief.
At a cost of $30,000 to $35,000, the city has hired two part-time parking enforcement officers that are working overlapping schedules.
The two young men resemble past members of the Parks Patrol Program – especially when walking their beats in their yellow polo shirts – but they are not Parks Patrol cadets. The city cut funding for the program this year, during the budget process.
Per the parking program rules:
•all permitted vehicles must be legally registered and in street-legal condition;
•no unregistered, abandoned or dilapidating vehicles can be stored in the municipal lots;
•vehicles left overnight must be parked in designated overnight parking spaces;
•for snow removal, an overnight lot user’s vehicle cannot stay in the same space for more than 24 hours without city police authorization;
•and permits must be attached to the inside rear window, on the passenger’s side, closest to the trunk.
Any violation of the rules could result in a revocation of a permit, with no refund for a paid fee.
Until 2003, permit fees for the city lots were $180 a year for a 12-hour permit and $210 for a 24-hour permit, the one used mainly by residents. That November, the city council voted unanimously to eliminate the fees and switch to a sign-up system for the permits.
Five years later, the city held public forums sparked by repeated complaints about downtown parking and the deteriorating condition of the city-owned lots. In early 2009, the city introduced a two-phase plan to reinstate a fee-based permit system.
After the city announced that program, about 60 people packed into city hall for a council meeting – more than had attended the previous two public forums. Due to overwhelming concern, the city rescinded and delayed the fee schedule, which was set to begin in March 2009.