North Adams Center Street lot parking to remain free for now, but meters will be considered

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NORTH ADAMS — Short-term parking will remain free at the Center Street Parking Lot, at least for now.

The City Council on Tuesday referred a proposal that would see parking meters installed in the lot to its public safety committee for further review.

Mayor Richard Alcombright and the city's traffic commission introduced a plan last week that would bring an end to the two-hour free parking at the Center Street lot, instead installing meters that charge 25-cents per hour for a maximum of four hours.

If approved, the plan would result in city workers installing 65 meters in the lot this summer. The purchase of reconditioned meters would cost $65 each, according to public safety department estimates.

The proposal would not directly affect the dozens of parking spaces that are already marked specifically for long-term parking pass owners.

Though heading for committee, the council discussed the proposal briefly and appeared inclined to explore the entire city's parking systems in depth during forthcoming committee meetings.

Alcombright maintained that the proposal was largely brought forward for enforcement purposes. Without full-time parking enforcement personnel monitoring the lot, the city receives complaints that people are parking in the incorrect spaces.

The lot has a kiosk that was intended to charge for parking past a two-hour free period, but it has been out of service for several years.

"We're just unable to enforce in the lot appropriately," said Alcombright, adding that meters would allow an officer to quickly drive through and check for red, expired meters.

"It seems like a lot of machinery and a lot of labor ... I'd like to be better convinced that it's time well spent," said City Councilor Eric Buddington in response to the proposal.

Councilor Keith Bona suggested that the proposal may be an opportunity to explore making changes to the city's entire parking system. Visitors to the city often don't have change to use in the meters, he noted.

"There are some new options out there," Bona said, including apps that allow customers to pay for parking on their cell phones.

The proposal raises many questions, said Councilor Kate Merrigan, who asked if a city planner could conduct a study of the city's parking situation if one does not already exist.

"I think there are a lot of good questions that should be answered with real data," Merrigan said.

Councilor Lisa Blackmer noted that, had the kiosk been repaired years ago, "we would have had some income coming in" and a way to monitor the parking. Blackmer asked that the city explore the cost of a replacement kiosk.

"[The traffic commission] has looked at all of that," Alcombright said. "I loathe those machines."

Alcombright argued the kiosk is an inconvenience for people just running into the bank, but Blackmer countered the first two hours would be free anyway.

The proposal is set to be vetted by the committee and returned to the full council on July 26.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376


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