January 16, 2013 10:32:10 AM
There is currently a two-hour parking limit for the spaces lining downtown Main Street, but it is often ignored -- a problem the Starkville Board of Aldermen hopes to resolve by hiring a temporary parking enforcement officer.
The aldermen voted 5-2 Tuesday to hire a the officer to monitor parking during peak business hours downtown. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against the motion.
The city will begin advertising for the position immediately, and officials hope to have it filled by mid-February. The parking enforcement officer will be part of the Starkville Police Department and will have the authority to issue parking citations, including tickets for those who make a U-turn to park.
The position was originally intended to continue through the end of this fiscal year, but an amendment to the motion set the trial period to end May 31.
The officer will be paid $12 an hour, with money from the city's contingency fund.
Perkins said the city has hired this type of officer before, but the employee always ends up being pulled from the assignment due to complaints.
He said SPD Police Chief David Lindley has reported that people who work downtown often cause problems with parking spaces.
Jennifer Gregory, with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, admitted it does seem to be employees of the downtown businesses who most often break the two-hour rule, but repeated attempts to remedy the issue, including going door to door talking to employees, have failed.
"Nothing has resolved the issue," Gregory said. "We would appreciate any help from the city."
But Perkins insisted that the board put the burden of policing those spots on the business owners.
"The employers need to do a better job and a more thorough job of monitoring their own employees," he said. "They are asking us to use taxpayer dollars to use something they can fix."
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas backed Gregory's request, saying the downtown merchants are the nucleus of the city's tax base and he feels it isn't the city's place to tell the business owners what they can and cannot do with public parking spaces.
"Ad valorem taxes make up about 30 to 40 percent and the rest is sales tax driven," Dumas said. "Downtown is a destination more than it has ever been. When we are growing the way we are growing and developing the way we are developing, you have to have the conversation about parking, and the fact that some revenue will be generated here is a plus."
Violation of the two-hour rule will result in a $10 ticket, and illegally parking in a handicap parking space will be $200. The board did not specify how much a U-turn violation will cost.