By Jesse Wood
July 12, 2012. According to recent invoices sent to downtown merchants, parking for lots owned by the Town of Boone – and contracted out to McLaurin Parking Company, monthly parking space rates will increase 33 percent – from $22.50 to $30.
McLaurin Parking manages three lots – the angled metered spaces on Queen Street, the parking lot above Queen Street and a lot behind the Watauga County Public Library. Downtown merchants and its employees are given first priority for the lots, and any leftover are sold to the general public – mostly students.
Steve McLaurin, McLaurin Parking’s liaison with the Town of Boone, said the Town of Boone wants to maintain a competitive rate compared to other parking space leasers. He said that Grace Lutheran Church rents spaces for $32 but added that’s only for Monday through Friday.
“It’s just trying to keep up with the market rate. The town doesn’t want to be most expensive nor does it want to be way below market rate. The people in town charge a higher rate,” McLaurin said.
He added that the Town of Boone is “sensitive” to downtown merchants, but even with the increase it’s still “about a $1” per day to park.
Even though merchants received a letter notifying them of the future increase, McLaurin said the increase isn’t set in stone as the Town of Boone is addressing the issue at its next council meeting, which happens on third Tuesday and Thursday of each month.
But a Town of Boone invoice to Haircut 101, reads “Due to increase approved by Town Council effective 07/01/12.”
For merchants with numerous employees, this increase poses a factor on its’ bottom line – especially for small businesses, according to one downtown merchant.
John Mena, owner of Haircut 101, who uses the parking spaces behind the library, wrote a letter to the High Country Press blasting the increases, adding that he already pays into the Municipal Service District tax, which is used to promote economic development in downtown Boone.
“Really? $800 more per year, for a total of $3,120 for six parking spaces, is what I will now have to spend on parking for my employees,” Mena wrote.
“Small businesses have been struggling to make payroll and curb expenses, due to our ‘Leaders’ these past two decades, to keep their businesses afloat only to get more increases form our own Local Government,” Mena continued. “Staying in business in today’s economy, takes a lot of hard work, determination and being tenacious with the costs of doing business – any business. Government, on the other hand, just raises taxes, fines and parking fees.”
Speaking at High Country Press offices on Thursday, Mena suggested having a reduced rate for merchants.