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March 14, 2013

Trustees choose parking machines

By Greg Klein
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Color screens and an upstate vendor proved to be the difference in Cooperstown’s Board of Trustees selecting Access Technology Integration Inc. to provide 13 coin-and-card multi-space parking machines for the village in time for this year’s tourist season.

The board held a special meeting about the 2013 budget on Friday, adding two time-sensitive pieces of business to the agenda.

ATI and Hectronic of Chesapeake, Va., were the two vendors that made the final stage of the bid selection. Four companies had originally submitted bids, but the two low bidders were selected for follow-up presentations.

ATI’s headquarters are in Troy, and it use machines from a company called Parkeon, which offers the color screens. The screens were so new they were not available for demo, but the board was impressed with pictures of the screens that are much larger and clearer than the non-color screens. The color screens also reduce glare better.

Hectronic does not yet offer similar screens.

“It’s such an important thing, I’d rather err on the side of caution,” board member Jim Dean said. “We want to cut down on the amount of time it takes people to use the machines. We want to make people’s experiences with the machines as pleasant as possible.”

Trustee Cynthia Falk said the reputation of Parkeon and ATI is impeccable.

“Every municipality I’ve spoken to was very happy with Parkeon machines, but since they were not all ATI, I also talked to the University of Albany, which uses ATI for its parking,” she said. “They are very happy with ATI. They said that with any problems ATI responds very quickly.”

The color screens added $13,000 to the purchase price, which will come in at just more than $100,000 when covers and set-up fees are factored in. The board learned at the beginning of the meeting that ATI had in-stock the green machines that board members preferred for aesthetic reasons over the standard gray ones.

Since the screens can be replaced in the parking unit, trustee Lynn Mebust suggested that the board could save $7,000 by only getting color screens for the six machines in the highest-use areas and upgrading the rest later. Trustee Ellen Tillapaugh agreed with Mebust, but Dean, Faulk and deputy mayor Walter Franck were steadfast that all of the machines have color screens. The vote ended up being unanimous. Trustee Frank Capozza was not at the meeting.

Mayor Jeff Katz said that even at the lowest projections for revenue, the machines will pay for themselves in about five weeks.

“Our initial first-time costs are already lower than we anticipated because we were looking at $12,000 machines (for coin, card and bills), and these machines are cheaper,” Katz said. “Even at the low projection of 60 percent — and the ones at Doubleday are closer to 100 percent — we’d make our money back in half the season.”

Starting with Falk’s research, the board members had quickly concluded that the machines that took bills were not only more expensive but more likely to jam than the ones that take just coins and cards.

ATI’s presentation included studies that 50 percent or more of all transactions are now done by bank or credit card. Some of their clients are closer to 90 percent.

Katz and several board members also indicated their desire to look into a program that ATI offers through a vendor partner to print and buy tokens for the machines. ATI’s sales representative Todd Schroeder said that many of his municipal clients find that local business like to buy the tokens to give to their customers.

“Maybe you sell them those tokens at a discount, and maybe you don’t,” he said at ATI’s presentation two days before the final vote.

The machines will be installed around Memorial Day and stay active for 10 weeks. It is unknown if the machines will be uninstalled and stored during the winter, or covered and left out, but they will be inactive. ATI’s contract calls for continued maintenance fees during the off-season, but the fees are smaller than in-season fees, and comparable to the re-start fees that Hectronic charges on inactive accounts.

Falk said she talked to MacKay Meters, the vendor for the machines at Doubleday Field about upgrading to color screens. Those machines would cost $1,800 per machine to upgrade. MacKay, a Canadian company, did not submit a bid this year.

The board also unanimously voted to switch from a three-tier system of boat dock fees to a two-tier system, a move that will add about $1,000 to the village’s coffers. Less than eight feet of dockage will again cost $350 for residents this year and $700 for non-residents. Docks eight feet and greater will cost $400 for residents and $800 for non-residents.

The three-tier system was $350 for docks less than eight feet, $375 for 8 to 10 feet; and $400 for 10 feet and larger with prices doubled for non-residents.