PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council adopted a provision to create a specific account for parking meter money.
The state law was part of the Modernization Act which allows the creation of such a special revenue fund. By adopting the statute, the city can funnel all of the money collected at the meters into one account and draw from it to support parking-related expenses. Previously, the money had just gone into the city's general fund.
Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said the primary use of the funds will be to pay for credit card processing fees, which city officials opted to cover instead of adding the few cents to each credit card purchase, and for the software maintenance contract.
"Those are the two primary expenditures that will come out," Kerwood said.
In the future, the city will look to that fund to purchase a second handheld license plate reader for the parking enforcement officers.
The city has a contract to maintain the software in the meter at a cost of $30,000 a year. The transaction fees have totaled so far $1,354. The meters themselves have taken in $26,000 as of Tuesday.
That $26,000 figure raised some alarms for Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell. When the meters were approved to be installed, former Director of Building and Maintenance Denis Guyer submitted a pro forma saying the meters expected to bring in $409,319 per year. At the current pace, the meters would only take in a quarter of that.
But, it has only been a couple of months with blizzards and cold keeping people indoors. An entire parking lot doesn't have meters yet. When the warm weather and tourism season kicks in, the city will have a much better understanding of exactly how much can be expected.
"We know we can support that but beyond that we need to get into this, specifically the summer season, to see what type of revenues are generated," Kerwood said.
Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo also questioned the expenditures from the account. The city implemented the meters because of a state grant requirement when it paid for the renovation of the McKay Street Garage. The required parking plan was crafted to ensure the garage was maintained but as Kerwood presented it, there is no money allocated for maintenance of the garage.
Kerwood said if the actual revenue figures support maintenance projects, then those will be phased into the account as well. But at this point, it is still too early to tell exactly how much will be available so he doesn't want to pen in expenditures without surety of the income.
"For the immediate future, the primary concerns with expenditures will be associated with the operation of the kiosks themselves," Kerwood said.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi echoed Mazzeo's sentiment, saying there needs to be money set aside for the ongoing maintenance.
"I would just urge the building maintenance department and the mayor really strongly that you put that money toward maintenance of our garages," Morandi said.
Mazzeo also questioned oversight of the account. That account will be off budget and expenses will not need to be included in the budget. Kerwood responded that the statute clearly outlines what the money can be used for and what it can't. He said he would certainly be able to provide the details of the account to councilors at any point.
The parking meters has been one of the major talking points with city residents. Many dislike them, others can't figure out how to work them, and others feel they are a great addition. The meters are located downtown and in the McKay Street parking lot. After the First Street parking lot is reconstructed, meters will be installed there too.
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