Ocean City Today
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As contract ends, OC considers new parking solution

By Katie Tabeling | Nov 30, 2017
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Dec. 1, 2017) In two weeks, the Ocean City Council will decide whether to spend an unbudgeted $597,000 for a new parking meter system for downtown streets and lots.

For months, the Public Works Department and procurement staff have considered 11 proposals to replace the decade-old meters since the city’s $45,000 contract with CALE expires in January.

During Tuesday’s work session, the council received the results of that effort —  a recommendation that the city acquire a “pay by plate” model from Parkeon of Moorestown, New Jersey.

The “pay by plate” aspect means that customers would have to enter a license plate number and amount of time in the kiosk at the time of payment, rather than simply paying and posting a receipt on the windshield.

That move, according to the recommendation, would relieve the police department of having to check for parking meter expirations when the receipt is missing.

“I can’t speak for [officers] but I hear it’s an issue for enforcement,” Public Works Deputy Director John VanFossen said during Tuesday’s work session. “It requires putting a [parking] ticket on a vehicle, and some people don’t put it on the proper spot on the windshield. It also can blow off with motorcycles and scooters.”

Enforcement has become a challenge in the last few years, as some customers use remote payment with the Park Mobile smartphone app, which requires a license plate number. If an officer doesn’t see a ticket, then he or she must type in a tag number to see if the vehicle’s operator paid for parking.

Parkeon’s software would integrate Park Mobile operations, so police would know immediately if cars have a valid ticket after scanning plates with a handheld license plate reader.

The upgrade would other doors for police, as Parkeon also would be able to flag a vehicle that has been tagged with an outstanding warrant. This software would work with existing technology in patrol cars.

The one-time cost of $597,000 would be paid out of fund balance, the city’s rainy-day fund. Budget Manager Jennie Knapp plans to withdraw $1.4 million from the account to pay for this and other expenses.

Mayor Rick Meehan asked that Parkeon give a formal presentation to the full council, as all discussion of the proposal to this point has taken place in Transportation Commission meetings.

“We’re at the point we need the vendor to answer questions, but I thought some items were interesting, like you can program a grace period and you can pay for any time you go over before you get a parking ticket,” Meehan said. “There’s a lot of great customer-friendly things we can do.”

Councilmen Wayne Hartman and John Gehrig asked for cost analysis before they make any decisions. Hartman also said he is interested in making the meters ADA assessable, as current policy is those with handicapped cars do not pay for downtown street parking.

“I would hope it’s our direction to start charging them,” Hartman said. “It’s a physical handicap, not a financial handicap.”

Gehrig also pushed for an itemized list of issues the current CALE machines have before replacing them for convenience.

“I don’t want to [get a new system] because it has all this convenience. I want to make decisions on high-level things, no extraneous reasons,” Gehrig said.

VanFossen and his staff reported that the meter’s credit card readers and software often have problems, and parts are frequently needed. The machine’s metal has become worn, making it easier for rain to affect its electronics.

Meehan countered that convenience should be an important factor in the council’s decision.

“We’re a customer-based economy and we certainly want to be customer friendly and work for them as well as us,” he said.

The matter will be studied at the Dec. 12 work session, when the council also addresses the inlet lot’s gate-and-attendant parking management approach, which could be replaced Parkeon’s “pay by plate” model.

 

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