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Keene looking to boost cost to park downtown

KEENE — City staff are working to draft a proposed ordinance that would increase the cost of downtown parking.

The last time parking rates were changed was in 2001 when downtown parking meters went from 25 cents per hour to 25 center per half hour. The parking meter spaces are also limited to a two-hour maximum before the vehicle has to move.

Parking tickets are $5.

What has been talked about so far is charging 25 cents per 20 minutes and increasing parking ticket fines to $10.

The system is in place to encourage the turnover of parking spaces, encourage people to use long-term parking that is available and to pay parking collection costs as well as downtown maintenance costs such as plantings, said Mitchell H. Greenwald, Finance, Organization and Personnel chairman.

The issue was raised by city staff to the Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee because revenue from the program is not supporting the program’s costs, Greenwald said Monday “It’s a user fee basically, so that the general taxpayer is not paying for the downtown parking. It’s supposed to break even,” Greenwald said.

The city also doesn’t have an efficient way to collect unpaid parking tickets from out of state offenders, he said.

The proposed ordinance could be presented by staff as early as April 3, Greenwald said. In that case, the Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee would take public input on the proposed ordinance at its April10 meeting.

The committee would then make a recommendation to City Council.

City officials want to be sensitive to the needs of merchants as well as taxpayers and patrons of downtown, Greenwald said.

“The downtown needs parking. The downtown needs meters, but also the general public needs to be able to park as reasonably as possible. Nobody wants to hurt the downtown merchants,” Greenwald said. “We’ll hear what the public wants to say.”

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