By Jesse Wood
McLaurin Parking, which manages parking for the Town of Boone, handed out nearly $300,000 in parking fines during the last fiscal year, from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.
Parking fines totaled $299,783.
This is roughly a $30,000 increase over the $267,992 in fines given out during the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to budget documents provided by Town Manager John Ward.
Last week, HCPress.com reported that visitors to downtown Boone fed the parking meters and pay stations more than $530,000 during the last fiscal year. Adjusting for credit card processing fees, meter software management and McLaurin Parking’s contract, the Town of Boone netted nearly $298,236.
When the Town of Boone transitioned to paid parking throughout downtown in early 2015, the town did away with validation stickers during the latter end of the 2014-15 fiscal year. After the transition occurred, many of the downtown merchants called for the return of the validation stamps to no avail.
For years, merchants were allowed to give a validation sticker to customers that were shopping in their store when they received a parking ticket.
During a 2013 budget meeting, former Town Manager Greg Young suggested the Boone Town Council alter the parking validation method because of lost revenues. Young suggested eliminating validation stickers all together and installing meters or giving merchants a set number of stickers with the option to purchase more.
Young noted that in the prior year the Town of Boone had lost nearly $60,000 because of nearly 5,000 parking tickets being validated from downtown merchants, who received an unlimited amount of stamps.
“It’s a money issue,” Young said at the time.
According to a Q&A educational pamphlet produced by the Downtown Boone Development Association, motorists can receive a citation for not feeding the meter or re-feeding it in time; parking in the wrong direction; parking on the sidewalk; parking over the parking line; and/or parking in an unpermitted spot.
People receiving a citation have the opportunity to appeal to the Parking Appeals Committee by contacting McLaurin Parking at 828-264-2645.
Ward noted that the new contract with McLaurin Parking, which has been described as having a predatory nature by at least one merchant in downtown Boone, “calls for more of a focus on customer service.”
As for the cash, Ward said that the revenue from the parking fines will go into the same pot as the proceeds from folks feeding the meters and pay stations.
For last week’s story, Ward said that the parking revenue will pay for increases in McLaurin’s contract and new meters to replace older ones that do not have the updated technology. In addition, Ward said that the Boone Town Council has budgeted to install new meters on Hamby Alley.
“My plan is also to recommend that we utilize parking revenue to expand parking options in downtown. I have been asked by Council to explore options for the lot next door to Town Hall. Currently, I’m working to develop a plan for a potential parking deck,” he said.