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June 20, 2013

Meadville officials optimistic after parking study

MEADVILLE — With the analysis of an extensive survey of downtown businesses complete, the City of Meadville’s Parking Subcommittee presented its report to Meadville City Council during its monthly meeting Wednesday night.

Councilmembers Nancy Mangilo-Bittner and Bob Langley, who conducted the survey and analyzed the results, painted an optimistic picture of the future of parking in downtown Meadville. Their full report is being presented in two phases, with items such as rates, meter times and fines being addressed in Phase II.

Phase I was presented Wednesday.

“We believe that there will be sufficient space available in the parking garage city lots and private lots to house those employees currently parking in the metered spots, preventing possible consumers from visiting our downtown business area,” Mangilo-Bittner reported. “There are 72 spots available, without counting the private lots. Several businesses indicated they would be willing and had spaces available for rent.”

Arrangements for those private spaces, she added, would be made directly with the owners. “The goal is for those who may be too far from the parking garage to have a space available in a private or city lot.”

They’ve also discussed the possibility of sharing spaces.

“For example, a hair salon may have three or four part-time employees who could share a space depending on what days of the week they work,” Mangilo-Bittner said.

Taking the next step

The next step in the process will be a letter to be sent by the city asking businesses to voluntarily contact the city to take steps to rent parking spaces, either in city lots or the parking garage.

“If someone already in the garage feels a space closer to their business may be better for them, now is the time to initiate the change,” Mangilo-Bittner said.

At council’s next public meeting, which is scheduled for July 10 at 4 p.m. in council chambers in Meadville’s City Building on Diamond Park, “we will report back on how many folks have come forward and if we feel we are making progress on moving the employees to parking spaces other than metered,” Mangilo-Bittner said. “If not, staff and the parking subcommittee will contact the businesses to work out an arrangement.”

She and Langley, Mangilo-Bittner continued, “have spent substantial time and effort on this project. The businesses asked for this and we need to provide it to see if not only we can enhance the businesses already downtown but to induce others to have businesses downtown.”

She and Langley, Mangilo-Bittner said, “feel strongly that once parking spaces have been provided — and to the best of our ability taking into consideration spaces closest to the business — that we will not permit employees to go back to parking in those spaces for any reason at any time.

“We have evidence that employees are simply feeding the meters or moving to another meter and feeding it,” she said. “This is not acceptable and the committee will recommend huge fines should this occur.”

As for when this will happen, “There are various areas we can look at,” City Manager Joe Chriest said following the presentation, which included a report from Langley on suggestions submitted by those responding to the survey. “We have a lot of things we think we can do.”

“This is a good time for us to work with individual employees to get them where they need to be,” Langley said.

“There is enough space available to make this happen,” Mangilo-Bittner said. “Employees at meters are put on warning right now. You have to move out of those spaces.”

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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