Parking crackdown debated

TYRONE – Some borough residents and business owners have noticed increased parking meter enforcement, and they aren’t happy about it.

Now borough officials may be looking for a solution.

In January, 163 parking and meter tickets were issued, compared with only 30 tickets for the same period in 2012. The 2013 tickets brought in just under $1,000 from parking enforcement for the month.

The Beauty Salon owner Linda Cruz said the cost of gas for the attendant to drive around the borough every day offsets the money being made by issuing parking tickets.

“For me to lose customers, for the borough to not be making money … that’s kind of a double negative, I think,” she said.

Mayor Bill Fink said parking always is an issue; the borough’s old meters were like an egg timer, he said, and the spring-loaded system became difficult to calibrate.

Five or six years ago, newer electronic meters were purchased for around $20,000, according to Police Chief John Romeo.

Although the electronic meters were an improvement, when they are used often or the temperature dips, the battery runs down more quickly, Fink said.

Cruz said she hoped the meter attendant would be a bit more understanding and allow for a grace period after a meter’s time expired.

Fink said the problem would be a difficult one to solve: the borough could remove the meters entirely but that would cause a problem with residents parking where business owners want to reserve space for customers.

On the other hand, the meter situation now is upsetting business owners.

Romeo said a lot of residents may be upset because more tickets are being issued now, simply because the parking meter attendant now works full time.

It used to be a part-time job, fulfilled by a person who also worked as a part-time code enforcement officer.

Last year, Borough Council decided that both jobs required full-time work, and by August the parking attendant was a full-time position.

People also can receive multiple $5 tickets in a day, Romeo said.

With parking being enforced 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, someone parked at an expired meter can be ticketed every hour, although Romeo said that’s a rare occurrence.

Habitual offenders may be ticketed two or three times, he said.

But he also agreed that the meters being used now are antiquated, and borough officials are looking for a solution.

He pointed to State College Borough, where multispace meter kiosks are being installed and older ones may be put up for sale.

With 167 meters in Tyrone, newer machines could be a solution to replace the old ones. But with better technology comes a higher price tag, and newer meters will have to be paid for, Romeo said.

State College Borough Parking Manager Charles DeBow said the borough is in the process of replacing parking lot meters, where kiosks can replace up to 50 individual meters. The kiosks are some of the newest parking technology; most accept coins, bills and credits cards and some brands are even solar-powered.

If State College would sell its older meters, Romeo said borough officials could look into buying them, since they feature a countdown capability that may placate business owners who feel the parking meter attendant is overzealous.

The meter countdown gives a car owner a five-minute grace period after their time has expired.

If the borough decides to purchase meters with a grace-period capability, it could start small, replacing only a stretch of meters downtown, like along Pennsylvania Avenue or 10th Street, Romeo said.

If it works, then the new system could be implemented elsewhere.

It may be a matter of trial and error, but Romeo said if it works – eliminating the parking problem and making business owners happy – then he’s on board.