By Mark S. Kenna
Sept. 18, 2013. After years of discussion and various propositions, Boone Town Council unanimously voted for pay stations and smart meters last night.
Pilar Fotta, cultural resource director for the town of Boone, presented two parking management options to Boone town council. The first, a hybrid approach, was one that would put smart meters on King Street and pay stations in the Depot and King Street lots. The second option concerned implementing pay stations on both King Street and the Depot and King Street lots.
“The Downtown Boone Development Association recommended option one, so we’re delighted to see that council voted on it,” Virginia Falck, downtown coordinator for DBDA, said. “The goal of the process was to come up with a parking management plan that is more customer and visitor friendly.”
She added that meters take the hassle out of Boone’s current parking validation method of marking a tire with chalk after the first hour and adds clarity to Boone’s parking management for tourist and visitors.
The first option will cost an estimated $216,875 while the second option would have cost $212,816. The new metering options are projected to bring in $247,884 in annual revenue from street and lot parking.
Smart meters and pay stations both have the option to be fed with credit cards and coins. The meters will also have the ability to be re-fed after the first hour with no cap on the amount of times the meter can be re-fed.
Members of Boone Town Council are happy to see that the decision was passed.
“We’re going with smart meters which will be much easier for visitors to navigate parking,” Lynne Mason, town council member said. “This approach is much more community friendly.”
Council Member Andy Ball commented on the “flexibility,” that meters would provide.
“I was very encouraged at last nights council meeting,” Ball said. “It’s past time we moved to a more modern solution for parking management downtown, this will allow us to be more flexible with parking managemnt.”
The pay stations and smart meters will be solar powered with a back up battery. A 3 to 5 percent merchant feel will be applied for credit card transactions.
The issue of wireless network security has not been over looked. Payment Card Industry (PCI), Falck, said, will secure the meters and pay stations.
PCI is an internet security system started by credit card companies in 2006 to “ensure the highest level of safety with sensitive data” and is something that is required of smart meters and pay stations.
During last month’s council meeting, Steve McLaurin of McLaurin Parking, which manages downtown parking for Boone, recommended putting pay stations in both the Depot and Town Hall lots. He added that the pay stations would remove the cost of the staff in the booth by Town Hall. Those employees will be used to collect the coinage out of the meters and pay stations.
The pay station alternative was brought up during a Boone Town Council special meeting in July to discuss the implementation of metered parking throughout Boone by Sept. 1. During that meeting McLaurin recommended pay stations over meters for a variety of reasons.
As of now there is no set date for installation of the meters and pay stations; bids still need to be sent to companies. However, the town will purchase and install the meters and pay stations.
Blake Brown, director of Public Works, was not available for a comment before press time.
Even though Boone Town Council has finalized the decision for meters and pay stations it does not mean that the problem of parking management has disappeared.
“It’s going be a work in progress, we need to look at trends and periodically evaluate to see if the initial plan is still working the way we want it to,” Fotta said.
At the beginning of June, Boone Public Works department put in experimental meters on the block of King Street in front of Capone’s Pizza. Meters also exist on Queen Street and Hamby Alley.
Metering on King Street was abolished in 1983, when Boone Mall opened. Town Manager Greg Young suggested altering parking validation at the Town of Boone’s budget retreat this summer.