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January 22, 2013

Parking survey eyed to boost Meadville's 'curb appeal' to shoppers, visitors

MEADVILLE — The first step is being taken in an effort designed to make the heart of Meadville a more consumer-oriented, visitor-friendly place.

Businesses in Meadville’s downtown business district are advised to pay careful attention to their incoming mail during the next few days. An undramatic-looking envelope from the City of Meadville will soon be delivered to businesses operating in the central business district that may ultimately have a dramatic effect on where owners and employees of those businesses are allowed to park.

A letter signed by city councilmembers Nancy Mangilo-Bittner and Bob Langley, who currently comprise the city’s newly-formed parking committee, accompanies a single-page parking survey that both are anxious to see filled out and returned by their Feb. 1 deadline.

“We need as many responses as possible so we have accurate information — so we know how many employees we’re talking about so we can come up with an appropriate solution to the problem,” Mangilo-Bittner said Monday.

“We want to improve the situation for the community and businesses and those who work in downtown Meadville — and the only way we’re going to be able to do that is with as much participation as possible,” Langley agreed during a Monday interview.

“If we don’t get an adequate response, we’ll be going to the businesses that didn’t respond and knocking on their doors,” Langley continued, expressing his hope that the thinly-veiled threat will cut the amount of door-knocking required to just about zero.

Both committee members also urged those filling out the survey to respond as completely and accurately as possible and promised that the information identifying individual respondents will be kept confidential. “Nobody will be used as an example or turned over for enforcement,” Langley said. Mangilo-Bittner agreed.

The survey is being conducted in response to a request from Viki Allin, a downtown business owner who has addressed council during two recent study sessions. “Employees in downtown Meadville who park in spaces where our customers should be parking are a detriment to the economic development of this community,” Allin told council during its Jan. 2 session.

According to the letter accompanying the survey, one possible solution might be to give downtown employees a reduced monthly rate to park in a currently unoccupied section of the city’s parking garage.

However, the parking committee is dedicated to gathering as many new ideas as possible. As a result, they left a lot of the questions wide open so people are free to comment as much as they like, according to Langley.

Because they hope to get moving on a solution as quickly as possible, including giving their fellow councilmembers an update during their upcoming Feb. 6 study session, Langley said he and Mangilo-Bittner will play a hands-on role in compiling the responses. “City personnel have a lot of work they’re going through,” Langley said. “We as council people need to be there to support our city personnel.”

Commenting on the team spirit demonstrated by the committee, which consists of one Republican and one Democrat, “This is bipartisanship at work,” Langley, the Democrat, observed. “We don’t even talk parties. Nancy and I are just determined to help.”

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

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