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Status quo

Rates, free parking will be addressed in coming months


November 16, 2011 | 07:46 AM
For the time being, the hourly parking fees and free two hours of parking in winter throughout downtown Lake Geneva will not change.

On Monday night, aldermen voted unanimously to deny a second reading of an ordinance that would have raised hourly parking rates in downtown to $1 an hour and end the city's two free hours of parking from November through April.

The ordinance is now expected to go back to City Attorney Dan Draper to be rewritten. Mayor Jim Connors suggested that a special workshop be held to discuss what should be included in a new ordinance.

Aldermen voiced concern the ordinance was not compatible with the new parking kiosks expected to be installed in spring. Aldermen Terry O'Neill and Tom Hartz agreed the proposed ordinance did not look ahead to the new meters.

"This really doesn't look at the entire ordinance," Hartz said. "It talks about meters, areas, meter numbers — those will ultimately be changing when the kiosks come in. We need to look at this in its entirety.

"I also think this should all go into effect at the time of the kiosk installation, which is expected in spring."

Monday night, the council approved bills, which included the first half installment to fund the new kiosks. The 60 modern-looking kiosks are a computerized, interconnected parking system that will rid the downtown of the old, coin-operated meters.

The system will allow people to use coins, bills or credit cards to be used to pay for parking. They will be installed throughout the downtown area, replacing the 948 parking meters.

The machines will allow the city to, with a push of a button, change rates in different areas or limit the number of hours for parking in certain spaces.

Two of the reasons city officials decided on the new kiosks were to provide the city and visitors more options for how to pay for parking and to make it easier to change the rates.

During the past few years at budget time, aldermen have considered raising the hourly parking rates in the city. Members of the council have been leaning toward raising the rates to $1 per hour, which would be expected to add $400,000 in revenue annually.

Alderwoman Ellyn Kehoe said Monday night that not approving the new ordinance now would be "a failure in our effort."

"We don't know when those meters (new kiosks) are going to be operating," she said. "This is just a stall tactic."

But Alderman Frank Marsala said the new ordinance can't take effect Jan. 1 as it was stated in the document up for a second reading and adoption Monday night.

The city's current meters would require improvements in order to be adjusted to accept $1 per hour fee said City Administrator Dennis Jordan, who contacted the manufacturer of the city's current meter heads. Jordan said it isn't expensive to change the digital meters to $1 per hour. However, the city has 367 old mechanical meter heads which are obsolete and can't be changed.

"You can't implement this ordinance," Marsala said. "This section should be effective May 1, 2012."

"This (proposed ordinance) is not accurate as it relates to the kiosks," Hartz said. "That is what we will be installing and there are conflicts already in the ordinance with what we have done."

"I think this (ordinance) needs to be rewritten and entered in as a new item," O'Neill said. "I don't know what the procedure is as far as are we going to eliminate two-hour free parking in winter. Perhaps we need to discuss exactly what we want in the ordinance."

That's when Connors said a previous suggestion was made to hold a special workshop to talk about parking meter rates and other parking issues revolving around the new kiosks.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Parking Commission Chairman Kevin Fleming asked the council to reconsider keeping the two hours of free parking through April 30.

"At our last meeting, we did talk about various ways the new meters could work," he said. "We would like to do that at our meetings this winter, discuss various ways of how that system could work — different rates for different areas, times of operations. We look forward to working with the council. We wanted you to know that we wanted to work with the council on that."

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