Parking issues plague Bath Town Council
The Bath Town Council was again faced with complaints and suggestions regarding parking issues at their meeting on Tuesday evening, December 4.
The Morgan Messenger distributed an editorial to council members in advance of the paper’s publication the next day.
In the editorial titled “Scrooged by meters,” editor John Douglas wrote parking tickets are a “recurring complaint from locals and tourists alike.”
He encouraged business owners to sit down with council members and “sort out some reasonable remedies.” The editorial suggested businesses might consider handing out quarters to paying customers to feed the meters.
Another suggestion was to bag the meters until New Year’s Day and next year bag the meters starting Thanksgiving Day.
Pointing to the editorial piece, Councilman Scott Merki said, “This coming from our own newspaper. This is what’s hurting. It’s doing more damage to our business owners than helping our business owners. It makes absolutely no sense.”
“I am sorry, this week has been horrendous,” Merki said. “I have been hit, hit, hit and hit about parking. I am at the point where I am just tired of it and now we have this coming out.”
Store owner reacts
Store owner Barb Wolfe said that during November, she decided to keep track and recorded 42 customer complaints about parking in town.
The complaints ranged from people asking where to park, why they only get 30 minutes for a quarter, whether the meters are really enforced on Saturday and why they got an $8 ticket, she said.
Wolfe recommended parking meters not be enforced on Saturdays.
Wolfe said she had talked to Beth Curtin of the Chamber of Commerce, who told her one of the main topics at the recent Tri-County Economic Summit was the parking situation in town.
“It is a problem and the letters to the editor are just the beginning and they will keep coming and coming,” Wolfe told council. “Parking needs to be addressed somehow, some way, and I suggest it be jointly done between the town and county.”
Bath Police Chief Craig Pearrell replied, “If I own a car company and I sell 120 cars a week and only one person is calling or complaining and putting a letter in the paper, I am going ahead with business. So with that being said, other than one letter to the editor, that clearly stated they were in violation of the law, I don’t see it as an issue.”
“My point is, is it worth the quarter and the $8 parking fee if you are going to lose business?” Wolfe countered.
“It’s not difficult. There is a meter that has a red flag. A quarter will get you 30 minutes. Put your quarter in to pay for it,” Pearrell said.
“Just as it was put in the paper last week, if they want to call me, they can contact me,” the chief said.
Councilman Ken Easton pointed out the meters are two-hour meters. He said there used to be some eight-hour meters, but a parking study suggested they be changed to two-hour meters in order to facilitate turnover to get more people into the stores.
“If you can afford to pay $40 for lunch at Tari’s, you can afford to put a dollar in the meter,” he said.
Pearrell said if the police adhered to state law, the parking enforcement officers would have chalk sticks and after two cycles have the vehicle towed.
“No, we aren’t going to do that,” Mayor Susan Webster said. She suggested signs be placed to alert people about the available parking behind BB&T Bank on weekends.
Responding to a question, Pearrell said there are 110 parking meters in town and the town collects about $50,000 a year from the meters and parking tickets.
In the end, the council took no action. Webster referred the matter for further review to the town’s Public Safety Committee.
Parking Enforcement Officer Betty Stotler said the next day that part of the parking problem in town is shop owners and employees parking in front of their businesses.
Another problem, she said, is that some businesses refuse to give customers change for the meters.