Despite some hiccups -- such as downtown Beaufort visitors paying meters unnecessarily or getting confused by the two-hour free policy -- merchants, customers and city officials reported a good first weekend of the city's holiday parking program.
Eleven tickets, only two for expired meters, were issued by Lanier Parking Services during the entire holiday weekend, city manager Scott Dadson said. About 25 expired-meter tickets are issued on a typical day, he said.
The other nine tickets were for illegal parking or parking in the wrong direction on a street.
"It appears that the number of citations is down, at least from the normal amount, which is good," Dadson said. "It is a bit too early to tell if the program in its new form is working as council intended. We will continue to monitor the issue."
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The city is offering two free hours of parking in all paid spaces downtown, and motorists can pay for additional time. Previously, select spots were free for two hours but people had to move their cars when the free time elapsed. Lanier monitors parking and marks tires to track how long vehicles have been in a space.
Charles Aimar, manager at Rossignol's gift store on Bay Street, thought the first weekend of holiday parking went well and made customers happy, although on at least two occasions he had to explain the system.
"It was nice they didn't have to move their car," he said. "If you are going to have lunch and walk Bay Street, you need more than two hours."
He would prefer completely free parking for customers but was "tickled to death" the holiday program was brought back this year.
"As long as people are downtown, that's what we want," he said.
Three free hours, in the three-hour parking spaces, would have been better, Sweet Bay owner Maggie Engstom said. Some customers were unsure if they could leave their vehicles in the spots for five hours -- two free and three paid.
"It should have been three hours free ...," she said. "You had people who didn't understand it, and they put money in."
Maggy Schein, who lives in Chicago but is frequently in Beaufort because of family, didn't notice the stickers on the street side of her meter that explained parking was free. She put $1 in the meter.
Schein suggested stickers be placed on both sides of the meters and a sign installed at the entrance to downtown announcing the parking program.
Ken Setterington visited the area during a previous free-parking holiday and didn't notice the option to feed the meter for extra time this year. But that's just as well, he didn't need more than two hours.
The parking break also made his visit from Toronto that much more enjoyable, he said.
"What a treat to come into a city that has that."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.