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New Smart Meters Delivering Profits
The theory: easier payment choices and the fact a departing car would immediately zero-out the meter would produce more revenue.
The result: the new meters generated an extra $15,583 over what the old meters would have captured. That represents, city officials calculate, a 21 percent return on the original $72,710 spent on the new meters.
These results were reported Tuesday at the regular meeting of the city's Parking Commission, which included a proposal by commission member Laura Lothian that the city use some of the $161,000 the city collected from all parking meters to fund a quick cleanup and beautification of La Mesa Village in time for the city's centennial celebration.
But most of the meeting was spent reviewing the performance of the new parking meters. While the first year's numbers were hopeful, there were also some potential clouds on the technological horizon.
Chris Gonzales, the city staffer assigned to the Village and the Parking Commission, said workers have noted a recent spate of failures in the sensors that monitor the arrival and departure of cars in each of the 102 parking spaces along La Mesa Boulevard. As many as perhaps 40 percent of the meters have stopped "zeroing out'' when a car departs with time left on the meter.
"That means right now you can pick up free time on some of the meters,'' Gonzales said. He said mechanics from the company that installed the meters are being summoned and he is hopeful a remedy can be found. If the sensors don't operate, the city's first good year figures won't be repeated next year.
"I would not be satisfied with a product that fails after just 14 months,'' Gonzales said. "But this is a new problem and we're looking into it.''
The disagreements about how to use the money raised by the meters, however, is not a new problem.
Lothian has suggested using the funds to plant flowers and do extra cleaning of the Village streets. But the City Council has consistently insisted over the years that the parking money only be used for capital projects that specifically impact the Village parking infrastructure. That has meant new lights, improved signage, reconstruction of the streets and new parking meters yes. Flower plantings, landscape improvements, extra street cleaning or power washing no.
The city's municipal code lists the acceptable uses for the the parking funds as follows:
12.56.120 - Use of money deposited in parking meters.
All moneys collected from parking meters in this city shall be placed in a special fund, which fund shall be devoted exclusively to the following purposes:
(a) For the purchasing, leasing, installing, repairing, maintaining, operating, removing, regulating and policing of parking meters in this city and for the payment of any and all expenses relating or incidental thereto;
(b) For the purchasing, leasing, acquiring, improving, operating and maintaining of off-street parking facilities in this city;
(c) For the installation and maintenance of traffic control devices and signals;
(d) For the painting and marking of streets and curbs required for the direction of traffic and parking of motor vehicles;
(e)For the proper regulation, control and inspection of parking and traffic upon the public streets;
(f)To be pledged as security for the payment of principal of and interest on off-street parking revenue bonds issued by this city, or any parking district organized within this city;
(g) For other public improvements related to the maintenance and enhancement of facilities within parking districts as determined appropriate by the city council.
Rather than using the parking funds to fund routine maintenance, city officials have insisted that merchants and Village property owners should contribute to the type of cleaning Lothian was promoting here.
Lothian said her request was for a special investment of the funds because of the looming centennial, which kicks off next month.
Lothian formally proposed the issue be discussed at next month's commission meeting and her fellow commissioners were willing to put it on the agenda for discussion. The vote to add it to next month's agenda was 4-0.
Proposals to continue Jim Wieboldt and Lynn McRea as chair and vice-chair of the commission also won unanimous votes.