By Terri Ferguson Smith
Parking downtown can be troublesome for some people who have problems finding a parking spot and getting back to their vehicle before getting a parking ticket.
The Meridian City Council is considering creating a parking decal that would be good for one year and would allow a person who purchases the decal to park anywhere downtown for an unlimited time without worrying about getting a ticket.
At a recent work session, council members discussed the matter and asked Karen Rooney, director of Main Street Meridian, to conduct a survey to determine if such a plan would be feasible.
George Thomas, Ward 1 Councilman and council president, acknowledged he has mixed feelings about parking decals, but he and other council members asked for the survey.
"We have asked Main Street to do a survey of the downtown merchants telling us whether they think it would be a good idea or a bad idea; how it would help or harm their businesses," Thomas said.
They will be asked where they work; how long they have worked there; how frequently they go downtown; and then how many tickets they've received in the last year and the name of their profession.
The figure under consideration for a yearly parking decal is $120.
"It would help certain people," Thomas said. "The question is, should people with money be able to buy out of paying tickets? That's a concern."
Thomas said the issue has come up before.
"If you had this placard in your car you could park there eight hours a day. It's been one of the suggestions we hear from downtown merchants," Thomas said. "They want those parking spaces to turn over so customers can get into their businesses. On the other side, you have people who have to make quick trips downtown and they say they don't have enough time when they park, particularly around the courthouse, for legal business. If you own a business and you want to pay that $100 -plus a year and park in front of your business all year, you could."
According to records from the city of Meridian, the total parking ticket collection from Oct. 16, 2012 to Oct. 16, 2013 was $5,012 collected from 777 tickets.
Pat Murray at Barefield Workplace Solutions on 5th Street, said parking has not been a problem at her current location.
"I have a parking space, and there is another entrance to my office," Murray said. "Our business doesn't have a lot of traffic. It's a sales office."
Murray said she doesn't have a problem with the city issuing decals.
Sabrina Bell, owner of Saxon's Flowers and Gifts on 23rd Avenue, said she would like the city to leave the parking situation as it is.
"I do pay for parking spots behind my building," Bell said. "If we don't have places to park there are some around the church (Presbyterian) and there are some free spaces in front. I'd like to keep my 30 minute and two hour parking that is there. I'm happy with it like it is."
Margaret Brown, owner of First Lady's Designer Hats and Things on 5th Street, said parking can be a problem.
"It's a problem for customers sometimes. I think that parking should be available for customers downtown, otherwise they can go to the mall," Brown said.
Brown said she would prefer the city leave the parking situation as it is.
"I'd rather not because there are people who can't afford a decal," Brown said."I don't think it would be a good idea."
By Terri Ferguson Smith
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