Meter rate reversal up for debate

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Officials could temporarily roll back parking meter rates following complaints from several business owners claiming theyve lost customers since a spike in cost.

City council members have not yet come to a consensus on a lower fee or whether they will scale back fees at all. But Councilman Frank Fannon said hed like to see the rates fall to $1.25 an hour, or 50 cents less than they are now, until the city installs multi-space, credit card-able meters.

Until then, its not fair to ask customers to carry 14 quarters to shop for two hours, Fannon said.

Now that we have the holiday season coming, we need to have people coming into Old Town, Fannon said. Of all the issues in the year Ive been on council this this has been the thing that Ive heard about the most. The frustration level is very high on this.

Council hiked up parking meter costs from $1 an hour in most places to $1.75 an hour earlier this year. Shops lost money because would-be customers lacked quarters or feared getting ticketed, according to business owners who protested at City Hall last week.

The city council held a work session and asked staff to study the feasibility and fiscal impact of decreasing the fee. Transportation and budget employees will work out various fiscal scenarios and brief elected officials on their findings Tuesday, said Rich Baier, director of Transportation and Environmental Services.

In 25-cent increments, staff will study the effects on Alexandrias budget should they decide to lower parking rates, Baier said.

Council will make their decision based on what were doing and on what business owners have told them, so its coming from both sides, Baier said.

Officials could use a $3 million budget surplus, recently allocated to contingent reserves, to make up the lost revenue, Fannon said. Multi-space meters are expected to be installed throughout the shopping district in April of 2011.

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