Pittsfield councilors vote to keep Columbus Avenue lot meters, but reassess city's parking plan

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PITTSFIELD — City administrators believe that its "on-demand" parking management plan has been successful in increasing turnover of on-street spots.

Still, the Rules and Ordinance committee voted Monday to recommend parking at the Columbus Avenue lot be free for 90 minutes while the city has a consultant take another look at the plan.

"From our perspective, the system has achieved its goal of increasing availability of parking," Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer told the committee. "It's now time to go back and say `Hey, how did we do? Where do we go from here?'"

During the two-hour hearing Monday, members of city administration presented a history of the parking management plan and data collected in the 2 years since downtown kiosks were installed. Councilor John Krol had filed a petition to remove the meters at the Columbus Avenue lot and allow for 90-minute free parking. After the presentation and a discussion on the overall state of parking in the city, he amended the petition to leave the meters where they are while increasing their free period.

"We don't see a value and we see potential damage in doing that," Ruffer said, of the original petition.

Altering the plan before the city brought back a consultant to assess the data from the last 2 years would be a "knee-jerk" reaction to a local business owner's complaints.

She was referring to Berkshire Nautilus owner Jim Ramondetta, who has been vocal about his beliefs adding meters at the former Columbus Avenue garage would unfairly hurt his business.

At the hearing Monday, Ramondetta said he saw the importance of increasing the use of on-street parking spots downtown, but he doesn't believe that parking in the Summer Street area has the same demand.

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"All I have to say is there is a dizzying amount of information here," he said. After the presentation of data. "Certainly, I would like to review it."

Councilor Melissa Mazzeo was critical of the kiosk software and how long it takes people to use.

"All they want to do is run in and out in five minutes." she said. "How do we fix that and how do we make it so it's not so cumbersome, but so people aren't staying for an hour?"

Like Ramondetta, Mazzeo also said that she'd like more time to review the data presented at the hearing before voting. Ultimately, after Krol took removing the kiosks off the table, she joined him and Councilor Donna Todd Rivers in voting in favor of 90-minute parking at the Columbus Avenue lot.

The petition will now go in front of the full council.

On the city side, Mayor Linda Tyer said that the city can begin the process of bringing back a consultant to reevaluate the city's parking within the next six weeks.

"I would say its a three-, max six-month effort," Ruffer said of the consultant's future study.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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