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December 19, 2013

Village trustees proposing only small parking changes

By Greg Klein THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
Cooperstown Crier

---- — After considering public feedback, the village Board of Trustees will not make any major changes to on-street paid parking for the 2014 season. 

“On the whole, on-street paid parking, as far as the law goes, will really be unchanged,” Mayor Jeff Katz said.

The trustees are, however, recommending an increase to the price of all-day parking at Doubleday Field and a new system of issuing parking permits.

A January public hearing on the changes is likely to be set tonight at the trustees’ December meeting. The meeting was moved to tonight at 6:30 p.m because a quorum was in doubt for Dec. 23, the traditional fourth-Monday-of-the-month day for the Cooperstown trustee meetings.

The trustees held a special meeting on Dec. 11 in which they considered public feedback on the on-street paid parking system. Katz said he thought the trustees came into the meeting with open minds about making changes, but the more they talked, the more they wanted another year of data before they considered major changes.

“To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” Katz said. “We really did consider a lot of things. We considered making changes on cost of the permits, on the cost of the meters, on changing to two-hour length to four hours, of changing 15 minute (unpaid) parking spots to 30 minutes, on extending the paid parking to other streets or further up Main Street to the county (buildings) area.

“The overall sense, once we got into discussions, was let’s have a whole year where it works smoothly, since it did not work smoothly at the beginning, before we consider making major changes,” he said.

The rollout of the paid parking in May was marred with technical problems, including a start-up failure with the machines, confusion about signage and a system-wide shutdown suffered by the vending partner Parkeon that came on the heels of the start-up failures. In addition, two machines had to be moved to Doubleday Field after the older machines in use there failed.

The board also indicated last week that they intend to buy two more machines for on-street paid parking, to replace the lost machines, and buy an additional machine for Doubleday Field.

The board plans to raise the all-day parking fees at Doubleday Field from $10 to $14. The consensus was that the rate hike was still lower than private all-day parking fees in the Chestnut Street lot owned by Vin Russo, but would make the on-street fee of $4 for two hours more in line with the all-day costs.

“The private parking has been at times $15, $20 and $25, and he consistently sells out,” Katz said. “But ($14) is still a bit of a discount from the equivalent cost of parking on the street all day, if that were possible.

“Really what we want is to encourage people to use all-day parking if they are going to be in the village for long periods, because we want to have turnover in the on-street spots,” he continued.

The trustees also agreed to replace the mail-only parking permit system so that anyone who wants to buy a permit can pay for it in the village offices and get the permit the same day. This season all permits were sent by mail.

The trustees have also proposed that the price of permits will change slightly to accommodate households with more than one car. The cost of the first permit will still be $25 but additional permits issued to the same household address will be $15 each.

The village had been soliciting public feedback on parking for the past month, and got officially 30 responses. According to Katz, only three called for the end of on-street paid parking while two asked for village-wide paid parking.

“There were only 30 official pieces of feedback, but the truth is we have been getting unofficial feedback since the summer,” Katz said.

Katz said that the trustees all have indicated that they are supporters of on-street paid parking, but that they are still open to changing more details of the system next year. However, he said that he didn’t think that the March 18, 2014 village election would change the program. Katz, Deputy Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and trustee Lou Allstadt will be up for re-election and have all unofficially said they will run again.

Katz and Tillapaugh are Democrats and Allstadt is an independent. New Otsego County GOP chair Vince Casale said that he expects to run a full slate of candidates in 2014. But opponents of paid parking, party affiliation not-withstanding, would likely need to win elections in 2014 and 2015 before having the votes to repeal the on-street paid parking from the village.

“Even if all three of us are defeated, it wouldn’t be enough to end paid parking,” Katz said. “The idea that the other members, who have all voted for it are suddenly going to change their votes the next day, doesn’t seem realistic.”

The Democratic nominating caucus is set for Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Cooperstown Fire Department. The GOP caucus has not been set yet, but can take place any time between Jan. 21 and 28.