System would lay off Salisbury parking attendants

Downtown commission cites potential for increased revenue with
automated meters
A switch to automated parking meters in two city lots could save $65,000 a year and bring in additional revenue.

But the money saved would be through employee salaries; the parking attendants in Lot 1 would be laid off.

The recommendation received support from the Central City District Commission. Karen Reddersen, assistant director of internal services, brought the idea to the commission after it received interest from the City Council.

The new system would be installed in the downtown parking garage and Lot 1 -- the two-hour-free lot next to the Wicomico County Library. The system can be programmed to recognize variable rates, such as the free parking the city offers after hours or the two hours free parking given in Lot 1. It also accepts coins, cash and credit cards.

"It gives people a little more flexibility; they may not have cash in their pocket," Reddersen said.

For the city, Reddersen said the system is expected to provide more revenue by removing human error from the equation. It also monitors for patrons who manipulate free parking.

Pam Oland, director of internal services, said she has heard about patrons who park in Lot 1 from open to close and wait until the attendants leave at 7 p.m. to avoid paying.

"Anecdotally, I know there are people doing it," she said.

The new system would keep gates down at all times. If patrons came in after-hours, they wouldn't be charged. But if they came in during the day and left after hours, they'd still have to pay for the daytime portion of their visit.

The proposal would earmark about $20,000 for employee salaries to keep parking attendants on staff for about four months into the transition, according to Reddersen.

But Janet Warwick, a Lot 1 attendant since 2007, said the patrons will miss her when she's replaced by a machine.

"I don't think it will work," she said.

The ultimate decision is up to the council in deciding the fiscal year 2011 budget.

The money to retrofit the parking system, $155,000, will be included in the parking authority budget as a capital expense. The parking authority is an enterprise fund that functions separately of the general fund and is self-sustaining.

The $155,000 price tag includes $150,000 for installation of two automated parking attendants -- one in the garage and the other in Lot 1 -- and $5,000 for wiring and connection.

The budget proposal is planned for submission to the council on April 15. Mayor Jim Ireton has yet to announce plans for his budget unveiling.
The city of Salisbury, Maryland
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