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City 'plug the meter' campaign supports local business in Nelson during COVID-19 pandemic

While practicing social distancing during COVID-19, Tom Thomson (center) and Cam Whitehead (far right) join Mayor Dooley in “Plugging the Meter” to support local businesses. — Submitted photo

To assist local business during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Nelson is redirecting parking meter revenue to a new Economic Stimulus Fund for the next four months.

In a media release Thursday, the City of Nelson said new program will continue to support public art programs and downtown beautification projects as well as target storefront improvements, energy upgrades and help fund the transition of Heritage City businesses to doing business online. 

So, Mayor John Dooley encourages the public as part of the "Made In Nelson Economic Stimulus Fund" to plug parking meters when shopping or doing business in the downtown core as 50 percent of meter revenue and fines will go to this new stimulus package.

“While we recognize some people find plugging the meter inconvenient at times and dislike getting a parking ticket, under this new program, our area residents will be directly helping our businesses get back on their feet,” Mayor Dooley said in the media release.

“We are redirecting a significant amount of money away from our paving program, but we can weather that storm for this year to help our business community.”

“So, join me in plugging the meter,” Dooley added.

In 2019, the City of Nelson generated more than $1,100,000 in parking meter revenue as well as collected $290,000 in parking meter fines. 

The city said parking meter revenue is primarily used to fund the $1.5 million annual paving program in Nelson, with the collection of parking fines assisting in the cost of enforcement. 

“Since 2013, seven percent of the parking meter revenue (approximately $90,000/annually) has gone into the Downtown & Waterfront Reserve Fund,” the media release said.

“The total transfer to the reserve over this seven-year period was $665,000 and has funded important Downtown & Waterfront projects over that time.”

These projects include:

  • The Lease & Purchase of Public Art; Mural Festival - $165,000
  • Downtown Public Washroom - $184,000
  • Hall Street Furniture & Bike Repair Station - $90,000
  • Civic Theatre Feasibility Study - $23,000
  • Decorative Lighting - $ 10,000

The City said these funds had been earmarked for important civic and public art projects over the next five years.

However, some of those projects will be deferred allowing these funds to be re-directed to priority projects that will help our local businesses recover from this pandemic. 

The “Made-in-Nelson” Economic Stimulus Fund is a key part of the Mayor and Council’s Economic Stimulus and Financial Stability 25 Point Action Plan

This new Economic Stimulus Fund will temporarily replace the Downtown & Waterfront Reserve Fund and broaden eligible projects. 

To also assist local business, city staff have commenced discussion with Kootenay Association of Science & Technology (KAST), Selkirk College, Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership (NAEDP), and others to develop a Digital Nelson – an online marketplace.

This new online feature will allow area residents and the world to transact with participating local businesses online, seamlessly during the pandemic and is an essential step in our local businesses being able to compete in a digital marketplace.

"Local businesses are working hard to get products online, but there is still a long way to go to make local products easy to buy,” said KAST Executive Director Cam Whitehead.  "I'd love to see a ‘buy local online marketplace’ for every community in the Kootenays.

“We have the local talent to make this happen, so I will be happy to plug the meter to help get businesses online.”

Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Thomson said now, more than ever it’s important for the community to ‘Think Local First.”

“We should always use the revenue in a beneficial and creative way — so people can see the meter money at work locally,” said Thomson.

“Nelson and area businesses need your support, so join me to plug the meter and eat, drink and shop locally.”

The new program begins Friday, May 1, 2020 and runs until August 31, 2020.