Ocean City —
Council on May 10 approved an ordinance which keeps downtown parking meters at 25 cents per hour, while extending the time of parking enforcement and parking limits in the downtown business zone.
Council previously introduced the ordinance in April, but made a substantial change – to retain a 25-cent per hour for parking meters – versus 25 cents per half hour proposed in the original ordinance.
City Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato said the change required council to hear the ordinance for a second reading.
The ordinance extended the parking times from a two-hour parking limit to a three-hour parking limit in the downtown business zone, and extending the time of parking enforcement from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The ordinance also increases parking at the Seventh and Central Avenue lot from 25 cents for two hours to 25 cents per hour. The city also wants to add approximately 24 parking meters to the 1300 block of West Avenue and charge 25 cents per hour.
The city is installing five parking meters in the 1300 block of Asbury Avenue by shortening the loading zone in front of the former St. Augustine Regional School and charge 25 cents per half hour.
Councilman Tony Wilson asked if the 1200 block of West Avenue could be included.
“If they need to have meters installed there, if that’s something we could add later if we deem it necessary,” Wilson said.
Donato said the city added meters on the 1300 block of West Avenue by conferring with local businesses on that block.
“We could do the same thing at the 1200 block if that’s what the consensus is,” Donato said.
Donato said the changes would occur in 20 days – late May.
Resident Eric Sauder asked whether the city would investigate purchasing credit card kiosks for parking meters.
“We don’t always carry quarters. Most of us carry credit cards or debit cards,” Sauder said. “I’d encourage you to look into that.”
The city has investigated the use of credit card kiosks, where customers could pay by credit card, Donato said, adding the city also examined meter heads which accepted credit cards.
He said a company approached the city in the off season with the meter heads, but it proved too cost prohibitive to purchase them.
“It’s no secret we make our parking money three or four months of the year. To buy these things at $500 a head when you’re not charging for parking year around and you’re charging in some zones a quarter an hour, we thought the return on our investment was not there,” Donato said.
However, Donato said the company offered to begin a pilot program and rental program where the city could test the meters for the summer.
“It’s attractive for a shore community like ours,” Donato said.
Donato said the meter heads have the ability to accept credit and debit cards. He said the company is offering 50 or 60 meters for the city to try this summer on the beach and boardwalk zone, because it costs 25 cents per 15 minutes to park there.
The meters are solar-powered and report wirelessly to a database, alerting the city to how much each meter collected and how many cars parked at that particular space each day.
Donato said the city would be charged normal credit card and Internet gateway fees.
Rental costs per unit would be $1 a day, Donato said.
Councilman Keith Hartzell said the city could evaluate the data from the summer to determine whether to expand the meter heads in the downtown and develop a way to pay for them.
“I firmly believe that if we’re going to go into an advanced method of payment down here, it would warrant an increase,” Hartzell said. “I don’t think many people argued with the increase as much as the ability to pay the increase. If the test goes well, I think it could be a win-win where we could get the revenue we need added without everybody being mad at us.”
Councilman John Kemenosh called the meter heads “convenient” for tourists.