Wednesday December 22, 2010

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Selectboard has unanimously approved the purchase of four new "pay and display" machines to be installed in Brattleboro’s public parking lots.

In a 5-0 vote held at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, members effectively reversed a decision made by a town employee earlier this year to remove all but 14 of the 64 parking meters in the Harris Place parking lot. Those meters were replaced with "permit parking only" signs, which neighboring businesses and organizations said was a huge inconvenience.

According to Selectboard member Richard DeGray, it will be two to three months before the town receives the machines, and 10 meters will be added to the Harris Place lot in the interim.

The other three machines will replace the existing pay and display meters located in the High/Grove parking lot, the Preston parking lot and the Harmony parking lot, said Barbara Sondag, town manager.

The machine slated for the Harmony parking lot will accept Mackay Smart Cards, dollar bills and coins; the other three machines will take coins only.

The total cost of the units, plus installation and shipping, is $47,950 and is a capitol expenditure that will be coming out of the town’s parking budget, Sondag said.

The Brattleboro Transportation Commission had considered ordering machines that were also credit card compatible, but the $45 monthly fee, per meter, was deemed too much for the town to pay, said Sondag.


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Last week, DeGray said the meters in Harmony lot need to be replaced because they are regularly malfunctioning.

"When they’re out of order, that’s a serious loss of revenue in the busiest part of town," he said.

The decision to take down the traditional meters in the Harris Place lot last summer has prompted discussion among the board regarding the town’s policies surrounding parking issues.

When questioned, Carol Coulombe, Brattleboro parking enforcement coordinator, said she has the authority to make such changes and needed only the approval of Brattleboro Police Chief Eugene Wrinn.

She told the Reformer that her intention was to make the Harris Place parking lot compliant with the other lots that have permit parking. Those who hold permits should have 24-hour reserved, guaranteed spots, she said.

But DeGray said that very few people with permits for Harris Place lot park there all the time, and therefore there is enough room to allow other people to park there as well.

"Thank you for getting this discussion going, and come January and February, we are going to have to (engage in) more serious discussions about the parking situation as such," said Martha O’Connor, Selectboard member, addressing DeGray and Selectboard member Daryl Pillsbury.

DeGray said a possible ordinance change will be coming before the board in the future, along with a "much larger discussion about the parking system."

Jaime Cone can be reached at jcone@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.