Merchants Want One Hour For A Quarter

Published 4:03 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parking space.

The final frontier.

These are the voyages of the Town of Farmville.

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Its 30-plus year mission to seek out new solutions, new civil equations, to boldly go into parking spaces like no one has done before.

And stay there for how long?

And at what cost?

The orbit continues on those questions.

Dr. Charles Ross, co-chair of the Downtown Farmville revitalization group, told Town Council last week that he'd recently perused The Farmville Herald's bicentennial edition and read one story from the mid-1970's that attracted his eye.

The report of a Town Council meeting, he recounted, that stated “most of the meeting was taken up talking about the downtown parking problem.”

More than 30 years later, Dr. Ross presented Town Council with the results of a poll that asked downtown merchants about parking meters. There was a clear poll winner-one hour of parking for a quarter. And a motion was made and seconded to adopt that as the Town's official Main Street parking meter policy.

But a substitute motion was made, seconded and passed on a 5-2 vote and the issue, including the poll results, was sent into committee for evaluation and expected action in the weeks ahead.

“I would just like to ask that the council take that sentiment under consideration, that most of the people running businesses down here would prefer to have one hour for a quarter, if that's doable,” Dr. Ross said.

Thirty-eight downtown Farmville business proprietors were polled and 36 of the 38, or roughly 95 percent of the people, voted for a change of one kind or another from the current system, Dr. Ross noted. “And most of those-28 of 38, or roughly 75 percent of the downtown proprietors-voted to go with a one hour for a quarter on the meter,” he told Town Council.

The other two poll options were: keeping the current 30 minutes for a quarter or increasing the amount of time a quarter can purchase to two hours. Thirty-six of the 38 merchants polled voted for one change or another, only two supporting the status quo.

“And, personally, I hope that 30 years from now when people look back,” he said, prior to Town Council's vote, “they'll see that this was the year that we put parking behind us and started working on more critical issues for downtown.”

This year, perhaps.

But not quite yet.

Ward B council member Sally Thompson made a motion to adopt the one hour for a quarter proposal preferred by most merchants, the motion seconded by At-Large council member, and Main Street businessman, Tommy Pairet.

Pairet had barely uttered his second of the motion before Ward A council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon suggested the issue be put into committee to consider all the implications, with Ward D council member Donald L. Hunter also asking questions.

Momentarily, Dr. Gordon would make a substitute motion, Hunter seconding it and, per parliamentary rules, the vote was taken first on the substitute motion, which passed 5-2, with Ms. Thompson and Pairet voting no, and Dr. Gordon, Hunter, Whitus, Otto S. Overton and Vice-Mayor Armstead D. Reid voting 'yes.'

The Discussion

“I would like to put this into a committee,” Dr. Gordon said, following Pairet's second and prior to the vote on the motion for one hour of parking on Main Street for a quarter. “We rush too much on things…

“…It sounds very good,” Dr. Gordon said of the poll favorite. “But what about the cost of this?”

Town Manager Gerald Spates estimated it would cost a maximum of $400 total to adjust the Main Street meters so they would provide an hour of parking for a quarter.

“Do the downtown merchants, do you see any negatives in doing this?” Dr. Gordon asked. “Have you come across any negatives at all?”

Dr. Ross deferred to Caryn Kayton, one of two merchants who did most of the actual polling from business to business. “No, no,” she answered about the poll winner, “everybody was excited about that because it's a rare occasion that people have four quarters in their pocket to be able to shop for two hours and it takes at least two hours to shop in my store, and most of the stores that are down at our end of the street.”

The current 30 minutes for a quarter rate would require someone to put four quarters into the meter.

“To me, the one hour parking (for a quarter) is the perfect situation,” Ms. Kayton said.

At that moment, Pairet again offered a second to Ms. Thompson's motion. “Mr. Mayor, I'd like to second that motion.”

“Okay, we have a motion to change the meters to one hour for a quarter,” Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr., said, readying for the vote. “And the motion has been made and has been seconded. We'll have a called vote on that, please.”

Spates then noted that the change would not be made immediately because the Town had to arrange to rent the necessary machine. A few weeks might be required.

“What's your recommendation?” council member Whitus asked Spates.

“What I've heard from a lot of people,” the town manager answered, “is extending the hours, where you could put in more quarters if you wanted to shop” longer.

Ms. Cayton then asked if the meters could be changed to accommodate that and Spates said he would have to find out.

“That was one of the biggest complaints,” Spates said. “Nobody complained so much about paying…”

They wanted to be able to buy more time than the meters currently allow, he said.

Responding to a question from council member Hunter, Spates said the municipal lot charges 25 cents per hour.

“Any more questions from anybody?” asked Mayor Newman, heading toward the vote.

Hunter asked about the revenue from meters on Main Street and he said he could understand Dr. Gordon's concern about rushing into things.

Spates said he would find out, and Dr. Gordon said, “the idea sounds very good. All I'm asking is, we don't really know how much it's going to cost. We don't really know a number of things. Maybe, for instance, there's a better option.

“I just think maybe we could put this into a committee so we could find out a little bit more,” he said, “and make an educated vote. I truthfully would like to make a substitute motion that we just take more time to consider this and maybe put this into a committee to just find out a little bit more information. “

“Second,” said Hunter.

There was a brief moment of confusion on which motion to vote on first, before it was correctly determined that substitute motions are voted on first and if they prevail there is no vote on the original motion.

Spates, meanwhile, told council that the Main Street meters take in about $1,100 every two weeks, with all street meters totaling about $1,700 every two weeks.

“I'm not saying anything negative or positive. My feeling is it sounds like a very good idea and I would just like to have,” Dr. Gordon said, “some facts in front of me. That's why I made the substitute motion, but I call for a vote on the substitute motion.”

After the substitute motion prevailed, 5-2, it was decided to put the issue into Town Council's Budget Committee for discussion and then a recommendation on action.

Discussion of the issue continued after the vote, however.

Pairet, who had seconded Ms. Thompson's motion to accept the merchant-backed one hour for a quarter meter change for Main Street, said, “the fact is that 75 percent of the downtown merchants were in favor of this change. The fact being we're probably talking less than $500 every two months in collections whereas the amount of taxes that are paid by the downtown merchants is considerable enough to affect this, I would think, in the consideration to try to help them as much as possible and encourage people to park downtown. And I think every time we delay it we just add to the problem of not trying to help them alleviate their problems, and I'm speaking for myself personally as well as from a town councilman. I mean, an hour for a quarter I think is the answer to the problem. I don't see where there's any big strategy to it. Change it. If it doesn't work, we do like we always do and change it again.”

Gordon and Hunter immediately replied that they want the Town to avoid flip-flopping on the issue and that is one of the reasons they want to consider everything.

“I don't want it to come back again…so we want to make sure we do the right thing,” Hunter said. “We have a knack of coming back and changing things once we put it out there and I don't like doing that.”

Ms. Kayton, meanwhile, spoke of what bothers her most about the Main Street parking situation. “That is my biggest pet peeve-people parking on the street that are not supposed to be there,” she said. “The merchants and the professionals that are on the street, and of course all the people at the courthouse.”

The Main Street parking is intended for customers, she noted, not for those who work downtown.

And so Farmville's parking trek continues.

Other Items

In other items from January's agenda, Town Council:

Approved a cable television franchise agreement with Shentel Cable Company.

Referred to its Personnel Committee a request from Police Chief Doug Mooney to amend the grievance procedures for law enforcement officers.

Reappointed Mike Lafoon, Katie Register, Nan Colvin, Chris Rogers and Patrick Murphey to the Tree Board for a two-year term.

Approved requesting the Circuit Court to reappoint William W. Poulston to the Farmville Industrial Development Authority for a four-year term.

Approved requesting the Circuit Court to reappoint William Crawley to the Farmville Board of Zoning Appeals for a five-year term.

Approved the site plan for Cookout, a restaurant to be constructed off South Main Street.

Approved a utility tax refund on behalf of Fuqua School.

Authorized a payment of $861 from the Town's Narcotics Fund for the purchase of a Nikon Digital Camera.