Our Opinion: Parking issue heads down rabbit hole

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The issue of trash pickup is not the only one that can tie the Pittsfield City Council in knots. This is also the case with the issue of paid parking downtown.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to set aside the debate over metered parking on the new Center Street parking lot in favor of a "complete conversation" on downtown parking in general. Unfortunately, several city councilors are happier talking than they are acting, and there is the danger that a conversation on this important subject may lead to nothing more than talk.

The talk about parking began when Berkshire Nautilus owner Jim Ramondetta complained to City Hall and to the City Council that the parking meters in the lot, which replaces the Center Street garage, where the parking was free, would adversely impact his business. Tuesday night, the Council tabled a petition that would have eliminated paid parking in the Center Street lot (Eagle, July 10).

The parking kiosks were installed by City Hall as part of an agreement in which the city received a state grant of $3.5 million for the $6.5 million renovation of the McKay Street garage. Mayor Linda Tyer points out that the city needs the revenue generated by the meters, and a parking plan approved by the City Council in 2016 calls for the lot to be metered.

The concerns of downtown business owners are important, and Mr. Ramondetta has long been an advocate for downtown, as he has noted before the City Council. However, the parking fees of 50 cents an hour in a lot and $1 an hour on the street are not so prohibitive that they should discourage anyone from patronizing a downtown business. We're not talking about a $40 Boston parking garage fee. And the parking kiosks may look intimidating but they are not difficult to use.

Mr. Ramondetta and Ward 6 City Councilor John Krol have pointed out that the 2016 plan also calls for paid parking in the lot on Melville Street, which is unmetered. While we are sympathetic to the concerns of Councilor at Large Earl Persip, who was not on the City Council in 2016, that the lot serves the Berkshire Family YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club, which in turn serve the underprivileged, the 2016 agreement should be adhered to.

The parking debate will now resume before the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee. Committee member Melissa Mazzeo, who is also a mayoral candidate, has requested the most recent parking study and costs and revenues associated with the meters, and extended an open invitation to residents and businesses with parking issues to come before the committee. The committee is entitled to that information and residents are welcome to speak their minds, but a City Council that has suffered from paralysis through analysis and been intimidated by unhappy voters on the trash issue and others may be once again tying itself in knots.

That the city cannot afford. Pittsfield has instituted paid downtown parking and that should include the controversial Center Street lot. Whenever this conversation comes to an end, that should be the result.



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