Beaufort cut losses in 2013 holiday parking program

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Parking meters like these will allow two hours of free parking in Beaufort Friday.

STAFF PHOTO

The company that enforces the city of Beaufort's parking rules is recommending a few changes for the free downtown holiday-parking program in 2014, to help ensure everyone knows how it works .

It also reported a decline in the amount of money the city lost, or had to pay, for expenses over the amount of money brought in by meters.

In a report to the city, Park Beaufort said instruction tags attached to the meters with bows did not hold up well. It wasn't immediately clear if that caused people to feed meters unnecessarily.

The annual holiday parking program allows people to park for two hours for free in any city-owned downtown parking space or lot. They could choose to purchase additional time.

This was the third consecutive year the city provided two-hour free parking for all downtown spaces. Previously, only some spaces were provided for free.

Hang tags advertising the free parking were used in 2013 instead of stickers because new electronic meters did not have space for the large stickers.

All downtown meters are being converted so that they accept credit and debit cards, as well as coins. They are also set to accept tokens that are worth one hour of free parking.

Among Park Beaufort's suggestions are placing holiday signs on the meter poles or using larger, more durable hang tags that explain the program to those parking downtown.

In 2012, the city lost $8,060 during the 39 days between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1, when expenses for monitoring parking were subtracted from revenue.

Last year, it only lost $2,229 for the 34 days between the holidays, according to Park Beaufort.

Meter revenue during the program period increased from $18,900 in 2012 to more than $23,200 in 2013, and Park Beaufort's operating costs fell from $26,960 to $25,440.

City manager Scott Dadson attributed most of the decline in net losses to the shorter period in 2013, because there were fewer days of free parking. He added that the program appears to be working well.

After paying Park Beaufort's parent company to monitor the meters, Main Street Beaufort, USA, received 15 percent of meter proceeds, while 85 percent went to the city's Redevelopment Commission.

Main Street Beaufort executive director LaNelle Fabian said she didn't know the instruction cards were not holding up well. She said her organization would have provided more or come up with an alternative, if she had.

She intends to request that the free-parking program continue in 2014.

"We'll always ask," she said. "We'll ask from now till the end of time."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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