Newtown Borough Council calls special meeting on plans to purchase self-service kiosks; turn municipal lot into paid parking facility

 

NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The borough council on Wednesday tabled action on a motion to purchase parking kiosks that would have set the wheels in motion to transform the free municipal lot located between Washington and Centre avenues into a paid facility.

The delay will give residents and business owners a chance to weigh in on the proposed move to paid parking before a final vote is taken by council.

The councilors have scheduled a meeting for Monday, Oct. 17 beginning at 5:30 pm at the Chancellor Center to discuss the lot and the kiosks with the public and borough business owners.

The council is considering purchasing three self-service kiosks to begin collecting parking fees for users early next year as a way of recouping the cost of repaving and resurfacing the municipal lot and to fund ongoing maintenance and street repair issues in town.

According to Council President Bob Walker, the kiosks are expected to raise enough cash to pay off the resurfacing and repaving project in eight to 12 months. After that, he said money raised by charged parking will be posted to the streets budget.

The cost of the self-service kiosks, the installation of bollards to protect the machines from being damaged by vehicles and informational signage is expected to cost the borough no more than $45,000.

According to Walker, the kiosks would be programmed to accept debit and credit, but no cash. The borough would charge $1 an hour to park in the lot Monday to Saturday between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hours would be limited to a minimum purchase of one hour and a maximum of three.

“We will probably come up with a list of free parking days,” said Walker. “The spaces have been numbered. The policy will be if the lot is covered with snow, there won’t be a charge. And all the handicapped spots will be at no charge. We don’t want to make it more inconvenient for someone who is handicapped to have to go to a machine.”

The machines, said Walker, would come "fully-loaded" providing for direct marketing opportunities for the local business community, including advertisement and coupon possibilities.

The kiosks would also assist the borough on the enforcement side, said Walker, by delivering a list of expired spots to the officer on duty.

Walker also noted that once the kiosks are up and running in the municipal lot, future plans are to expand their use to State Street.

During public comment, a representative from Isaac Newton’s, a borough pub and restaurant completely surrounded by the municipal lot, raised numerous concerns with the borough’s plan, including the $1 charge for parking, the hours of operation and the potential loss of patrons and customers.

According to an informal survey Isaac’s conducted, he said 80 percent of the business owners on State Street are opposed to charged parking “because they know it is going to affect business.

“People are not going to want to pay to park there and they will go elsewhere and those businesses will thrive where us in Newtown Borough, you’re either going to have to move your business to somewhere over there or you’ll just have to close up shop eventually,” he said.

If council moves forward with the kiosks, he asked that they consider ending the paid parking time by 5 p.m. at the latest. “You may have people arriving for dinner at 5:30 or 5:45 p.m. who are going to have to pay $1 to be there for those few minutes before 6 p.m.,” he said. “From a logistical standpoint of keeping the parking lot cleared during normal business hours for customers to come in for things, 4 or 5 p.m. would be a much more reasonable time.”

With regard to employee parking, he noted that Doylestown offers 10 hour permits “because they understand that employers and employees have to park near their businesses.

“Those 10 hour permits could work flawlessly with a parking lot like this,” he said. “In talking to other employees, if they had a permit available they would rather pay the permit than have to park on Sycamore or keep moving their car every three hours,” he said.

Doylestown charges $50 for a 10 hour permit, which is good for six months, he said.

“It’s a viable option to make this a whole idea for everyone,” he said.

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