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City narrowly approves parking meter rate increase

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 28th, 2017

Although additional parking spaces and revenue could be created in the city in the coming months, city council decided not to wait and approved an increase to parking meter rates in the downtown.

Council narrowly approved the 20 per cent rate rise with a four-to-three vote, effectively bumping the hourly rate from $1 to $1.25, the first meter rate hike since 2011.

Mayor Deb Kozak — who voted against the rate rise — said city council had discussed parking rates earlier this year as part of its budget process, but the recently released draft  Downtown Parking Strategy changed the playing field for parking meter revenue with the announcement of the creation of additional parking spaces. 

“After hearing about the plan to increase parking spaces and the other adjustments to the parking strategy, I felt it was premature to raise rates this year,” she said. “I wanted to see what revenues would be generated before approving an increase.”

There is certainly a range of other issues regarding parking and the condition of city roads that need to be discussed at the council table, said Coun. Michael Daily, but the rationale for the rate rise for parking was not one of them.

“This is housekeeping, really, bringing this up to the cost of inflation,” he said about the 20 per cent hike.

An estimated $75,000 will be generated from increasing parking meter revenues this year and will go into the city’s capital reserve fund — a fund used primarily to pave streets. The increase will bring an estimated $115,000 per year into the city coffers.

The degraded condition of the city’s roads was the impetus for seeking an increase, after director of Public Works and Utilities, Colin Innes, determined that what the city was investing in its roads was inadequate.

Innes’ report was similar to what council adopted for sewer and water upgrades over 10 years ago, said Kozak. 

“This investment has paid off in water and sewer systems to prevent breaks and improve the efficiency and health of the overall system,” she said.

“Nelson is a leader in renewing infrastructure. If we address these road deficits now, it will prevent further degradation and higher costs in future. Each asset is being addressed in turn.”

“And many of our roads are reaching 30 years of life,” added city manager Kevin Cormack. “(Innes) felt the standard of roads in many communities was 15 years.”

The Public Works report revealed the city needed to invest an extra $600,000 per year to repaying and refurbishing its roads. The parking meter revenue rise — coupled with expanding the coverage of paid parking in the downtown — could help raise those funds, Cormack explained.

“If you let your roads go past that tipping point you begin to lose that road base and then the costs would be almost double what the costs are if you do the resurfacing at the right time,” he said.

At a special committee-of-the-whole budget meeting held on Jan. 27 council directed that staff increase the parking meter rate by 25 cents, after the operating and capital plans for the city’s general fund were reviewed and alternative sources of revenue from property taxes were sought.

Council considered options for increasing revenue and directed that parking meter rates increase  — the previous parking meter increase occurred in 2011. 

The increase might not generate as much money as estimated, however, since the city is prepared for some backlash from the public.

“Increased parking rates may also encourage people to use alternative forms of transportation such as transit, cycling and walking,” read a city staff report to council.

According to city data, approximately 750 meters are located within the city in the downtown. The bylaw department will be required to place new rate stickers on each meter and re-program all meters. 

Parking ticket dispensers will also be located at Hall Street plaza area and the city parking lot near the rear of the Prestige Lakeside Resort.

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