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DBDA: No Preference On Meters Or Pay Stations, Council Makes No Decision, Tables for Next Month

By Mark S. Kenna

Aug. 21, 2013. The discussion regarding meters continued last night when Boone Town Council asked Downtown Boone Development Association (DBDA) to come back with numbers concerning parking meters on the street and pay stations in parking lots.

Instead of mechanically-operated coin meters, DBDA is looking at smart meters, which can be fed coins and credit cards.

However, both pay stations and smart meters would require a wireless network to process credit and debit card transactions. 

These meters can be secured by Payment Card Industry (PCI), Virginia Falck, downtown coordinator for DBDA, said.  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.

A gentleman feeds a meter that was part of a trial installation of 20 meters along a block of King Street in front of Capone’s Pizza. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Steve McLaurin of McLaurin Parking, which downtown parking for Boone, recommended putting pay stations in both the Depot and Town Hall lot.  He added that the pay stations would remove the cost of the staff in the booth by Town Hall.

During the discussion, budget issues were brought up by Greg Young, town manager, and Jamie Leigh, mayor pro-tem.   

The problem with making projections is that the Town of Boone has not used parking meters in a long time, Young said. 

Young also raised concern regarding maintenance costs. This would include battery costs and operation expenses.  It would also include the amount of money that will be taken off of the revenue generated by credit card transactions—a merchant fee, software and stock piling parts. 

Leigh cited that the amount of money allocated in the budge is specifically for the old meters not for new meters.

“It’s a real mistake, long term to try to manage our parking in town as a revenue producing activity,” Leigh 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.

But, a 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 Steve McLaurin of McLaurin Parking, which manages downtown parking services for the town, recommended pay stations over meters for a variety of reasons.

The move from meters to pay stations caused council members to raise concerns – mainly the cost of a 3 percent merchant fee — if the council decides on coin and credit card operated pay stations over meters.

At the Tuesday meeting, commissioners tabled the discussion until next month when the DBDA will bring more recommendations to the Boone Town Council.