March 05. 2014 8:38PM

Manchester parking fee plan sent back to aldermanic committee

New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER — A plan to raise parking fees downtown that had been on the fast-track hit a bump in the road Tuesday.

The aldermen’s Bills on Second Reading Committee voted Tuesday to send three proposed ordinance changes concerning parking enforcement back to the Public Safety, Health and Traffic Committee for further review.

The aldermen expressed concerns that they couldn’t vote separately on the proposed fee hikes. One of the ordinances contains a schedule of rates that includes metered spaces, as well as the prices for monthly lot, garage and residential permits.

As originally proposed in a plan devised by the city finance and parking directors, monthly permit fees at city lots would have be hiked by roughly 50 percent. Parking meter enforcement would also be expanded to encompass a wider perimeter around downtown and a uniform rate of 75 cents per hour would apply to all meters (some coin meters currently cost 50 cents an hour).

In addition, there would be a new $100 annual fee for a downtown residential parking permit, which could only be purchased by people who live in the district.

The plan, drawn up after the mayor called on department heads to come up with new revenue ideas, could generate an additional $600,000 to $1 million annually, according the finance director’s estimates.

At the committee meeting Tuesday, several aldermen said they that supported some of the fee hikes, such as making the meter rate uniform, but not others.

“This putting meters and permits together, half I don’t have a problem with, the other half I do,” Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne said. “As far as the permits, I would rather leave them the way they are. I just assume, the way the economy is, leave them alone at least for another year.”

The Bills on Second Reading Committee is only supposed to make technical modifications to bills previously passed by the full board, which approved the parking fee hikes at its meeting last month.

After some debate about protocol, deputy city solicitor Tom Arnold and City Clerk Matt Normand agreed at Tuesday’s meeting that the best course of action was to send the ordinances back to the traffic committee, where the they could, in Normand’s words, “be recodified.”

The parking permits hikes now being considered by the aldermen are more modest than they were when the finance director first outlined the plan. The increase in parking permit fees at the Millyard, for example, would go from $45 to $55, rather than to $70. Parking at surface lots, would go from $50 to $60, and the monthly fee at the Victory Garage would go from $75 to $85.

The cost for a residential parking permit, for people who live in the central business district, would be $100 a year.

The revised fares could result in $504,000 in new revenue for the city, according the finance director’s estimates.

Alderman-At-Large Dan O’Neil said whatever the aldermen ultimately approve, he wants the public to be aware of the changes. “I don’t have much of a problem with the increases because I think they’ve been discussed,” he said. “It’s about how much advanced notice we’re giving the public of the increases.”