Adams Selectmen consider parking enforcement overhaul
ADAMS -- Citing declining meter revenues and limited police resources, the Board of Selectmen discussed potentially overhauling the town's parking enforcement system at its meeting on Wednesday.
The board agreed that upgrading parking meters should continue to be a part of plans to renovate Park Street, but that the town needs to identify a new model for enforcement, including possibly charging for time in the Adams Visitor Center lot and raising hourly rates.
Years ago, the town brought in between $20,000 and $30,000 annually from parking meter coins. In about the past five years revenue has plateaud near $10,000, according to Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, less than the town spends on meter maintenance and enforcement.
The town currently has meters that charge $0.25 per hour on Summer and Park Streets every day but Sunday. There is no charge overnight.
Selectman Arthur Harrington had asked the topic be on the meeting's agenda after questioning at a previous meeting if the town should include new meters in its renovation or spend the money elsewehere.
"If we're going to continue to meter the town, then we need to change the enforcement," Harrington said. "I don't think its cost-effective to have a policeman's salary out there writing tickets."
Butler explained that the police department has lost four full-time employees in recent years, and is down to 15 full-time officers. Due to the loss of two full-time dispatchers, Butler said, an officer has to cover the dispatch center 40 percent of the time -- leaving little time for parking enforcement.
Two years ago, the town put an extra $20,000 in its reserve budget to use more reserve shifts for community policing, but it hasn't worked out because of the staffing issues, according to Butler. The number of tickets written has continued to decline in recent years.
Even without any meters, Butler pointed out, the town would still have to enforce time limits or other potential regulations.
"They're not enforcing it because they don't have the resources," Butler said. "The model just doesn't work."
Adams Police Chief Richard Tarsa was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
The board also discussed the possibility of putting parking "kiosks" at the entrance of the Visitors Center parking lot, which sees an upswing of activity during the summer but remains free of charge.
Hoosac and Depot Streets were also discussed for potential metering in the future. Two major projects nearby -- the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail extension and the proposed Hoosac Valley Service of the Berkshire Scenic Railway -- could bring a surge of visitors to that section of town.
Butler said it is difficult to identify a single solution to the problem.
"The discussion of maybe a couple of part-time positions that address parking down the road might be a cost-effective way to address this," Butler said. "But that's a sensitive conversation, and we'd have to engage with the police union."
Community Development Director Donna Cesan told the board her department has already begun to look into alternative metering options by comparing rates with nearby communities and identifying other areas of town that might be suitable for metering.
The board plans to take up the issue again within a couple of months.
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