Parking meters could be in place by mid-March at Gulf Shores beach lots

Three of the city's largest public beaches could be outfitted with pay-to-park systems by mid-March if the City Council votes Monday to buy eight solar-powered pay stations from a California firm.
paystation ventek.jpgFor the last year a group of municipal employees has been looking for a way to squeeze more money out of the parking lots at the city's beaches without raising the daily rates.

Installing the system from VenTek International would cost the city about $180,000 over three years in a lease-purchase deal. City officials estimate that by using the machines rather than the contract laborers that have traditionally been hired to collect parking fees, taxpayers could see a $820,000 in revenue over five years.

In the last three years Gulf Shores has collected between $261,000 and $276,000 annually, city records show. That money has been used to pay security officers and parking attendants, leaving anywhere from $92,000 to $122,000 left in profit.

The additional profits would be realized, city officials believe, by subtracting the roughly $50,000 a year the parking attendants are paid and boosting revenue by charging for parking at the West Second and West Sixth street lots for the first time.

The eight machines would be distributed among the three public beaches, with six installed at Gulf Place at the base of Ala. 59, and one each at lots at the West Second and West Sixth streets, City Planner Andy Bauer said Tuesday during a council work session.

Spaces will be numbered at the Gulf Place and West First Street lots, and machines there will charge either $1 an hour or $5 a day to park. Residents will continue to be able to park for free by displaying their hurricane re-entry decals, Bauer said.

The machine installed at West Sixth Street will only charge the daily rate because the lot there is gravel and spaces can't be numbered, Bauer said.

The machines, which will accept cash, coins and credit cards, will operate primarily on solar power but will be outfitted with electric backup supplies. They can be removed in the event of a hurricane and they utilize cellular technology to process credit card payments.

Bauer said the committee of municipal employees that studied the issue has recommended that the meters be installed from March to September from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"The machines are programmable so all this information from the timing of it to how much money and all that can be reprogrammed to do pretty much anything we'd like," Bauer said. "But that's what we propose today."
VenTek International
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