NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Traffic Commission is recommending the city raise its parking permit fees for the Center Street lot for the first time in 10 years.
The commission on Monday voted to recommend to the City Council raising the rates by $10 for both daytime and overnight parking permits. Four of the commissioners were in attendance: Chairwoman MaryAnn King, Amanda Chilson, Eric Buddington and David Sacco.
King said she had discussed the issue with Police Chief Michael Cozzaglio about hiking the permits.
"We've never raised the price on it since that was put in place in that lot," King said. "It's just that it is prime parking and there are other places in the area that have paid parking and have charged $50 for parking 24/7."
The permits are currently $30 a month for parking from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week; parking is free on Sunday. The overnight permits are $35 and also include daytime parking.
The commission is recommending a price of $40 for days and $45 for overnights with an effective date of July 1 to give the council time to refer to the Public Safety Committee and an enact the ordinance, should it agree to the change.
A discussion of rate changes for the St. Anthony Municipal Lot are expected to be brought up at the next meeting because it was not on the agenda for January. But King did report, as part of the agenda, that handicapped accessible parking was not required in the lot.
Those spaces are supposed to be set aside so eligible motorists can have closer access to buildings, but there are no buildings at the municipal lot. Rather, all the buildings around the lot have their own parking with handicapped spots.
King also reported that headway is being made for lot permits to be sold online. A complaint about the inability to purchase or renew parking permits during off-hours and weekends had been brought to first to council and then to the commission in October by the Holden Street Condominium Association. (The association had also asked for a reduction in permit rates; no one from the association attended Monday's meeting.)
The city has been working with its online payment provider, Unibank, to have a new system up and running soon.
"The only thing we're trying to working on now are maps of the parking lot to help people out," she said. "We do have some night parking stipulations: instead of having people all over the lot, they have to park in a certain area. That's always been a stipulation basically during the winter months for plowing purposes."
The Police Department has been helping by issuing permits paid by check on the weekends. King said she set up an envelope with instructions for the dispatchers.
"I haven't had any complaints," King said. "In fact, we received a compliment the other day that the dispatcher was very friendly, very courteous."
The agenda item was tabled to next month for an update as to where Unibank was in the process.
The commission also reviewed a number of complaints of speeding and traffic violations that had been brought forward several months ago.
Those streets under discussion were Ashland, Eagle and Pleasant streets; Phelps Avenue and Barbour Street; and the west entrance to the Center Street Parking Lot. These had been tabled from the last meeting in November to allow the police time to address the complaints.
But officers found they could not substantiate the frequent alleged speed violations.
"I had patrol units monitor traffic speed on Pleasant Street intermittently for several days," King read from a letter submitted by Lt. Jason Wood. "During that time there were no observable speeding infractions.
"My perception is this complaint is driven by the fact that the sidewalk and homes are in close proximity to the already narrow street. It is not uncommon for a vehicle to appear to be traveling at a higher rate of speed when the observer is in close proximity."
King said Wood also had had Eagle Street monitored as well as Phelps and Barbour and there were "no observable speeding infractions."
As to Ashland, they also all agreed that there was enough signage in place for motorists so any complaints would be an enforcement issue, which would not involve the commission.
King said she had looked into the complaints about the dangerousness of the entrance into the Center Street lot near Public restaurant but could not substantiate the claims in that case either.
"I sat in that lot. Cars are not coming in there at a high rate of speed," she said. "When they're coming on from Center Street, there's not much of a travel distance there. ... when you're coming from Holden Street, again, there's not much distance there."
Rather, King said she observed pedestrians stepping into the crosswalk on Center without looking.
"They're stepping out in front of cars. That's what seems to be the issue," she said. "They're under the impression that cars have to stop for them. ... but it's yield for pedestrians."
Chilson said pedestrians should be able to determine where cars are coming from before they cross. "If you look at the light, you know where the traffic will be entering from — whose got green, whose got red," she said.
Sacco motioned to file the item, which was approved.
He also alerted the commission he would be bringing a request to eliminate a parking space on Church Street near the stairs to the parking lot on the north side as a matter of public safety. That should be on the February agenda.
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