NASHUA — City teens were successful in their efforts to secure free parking for students at the Nashua Public Library, although some aldermen say it could be considered discriminatory.
On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen approved the pilot parking program with a vote of 8-6, which will provide up to 20 free parking passes for students.
The passes will be distributed at the library in exchange for a student identification card, and will enable high school or college students to park at the library parking lot for free for up to three hours at a time.
Currently, parking at the library costs 50 or 75 cents per hour, depending on the location of the parking spot.
“I think this will bring students downtown,” Alderwoman Jan Schmidt said of the initiative, explaining many teens do not currently use the library because it is inconvenient for them.
By providing free parking, students can utilize the library and its resources, and visit the downtown area in the process, making them feel like they are a part of the community.
There are 84 parking spaces in the library parking lot, which garners more than $27,000 a year in parking revenue. If the 20 spaces reserved for students are utilized all of the time, which officials agree is highly unlikely, about $6,000 in parking revenue will be lost.
“God, I really hate to be the Scrooge on this one,” said Alderman Mike O’Brien, who voted in opposition to the proposal.
Downtown parking must be studied on a global level, according to O’Brien, who stressed that a larger downtown parking study is about to get underway and could provide some suggestions.
O’Brien said he is concerned that allowing free parking to students will create demographic problems.
“What is right for one should be right for all,” agreed Alderman Ben Clemons, who also opposed the pilot program. Clemons said there should be a level playing field for parking, as well as the completion of a comprehensive parking study to make thorough recommendations before changes are made.
Delaney Nelson of Woodfield Street, a Nashua student, told the Board of Aldermen that the library is an academic environment that has endless resources and provides a quiet study spot for teens, as opposed to bookstores and cafes that can be distracting during study time.
“This is a small amount of money for a maximum amount of benefit,” said Alderman Tom Lopez, stressing the library parking lot is rarely full. The teens are clearly expressing this as a necessity, he added.