Two big City projects were up for discussion at a public meeting Tuesday night, but it was the one that’s self-funding that grabbed most of the attention.
City staff gave presentations on short-term street parking solutions and the joining of First Avenue and Lorne Street to more than 60 people at the Interior Savings Centre.
And although the First Avenue project — which includes road repairs to a four blocks of Lansdowne — comes in at $1.8 million, it was the borrowing of $1.7 million for new parking kiosks that got the most attention.
One woman asked City community safety and enforcement manager Jon Wilson about the warranty costs that a kiosk representative told her about.
In addition to the cost of the 90 new kiosks, each one has a warranty with a price of $45 per month.
Wilson said it just takes one computer to break down to rack up a $4,000 maintenance bill. The warranty would see things replaced at no charge.
With the current old, outdated meters, one bylaws employee works almost full time fixing the devices, he said.
“Some (meters) are 20 years old because we've piece them together for so long, we can't get the software to recalibrate them,” he said.
Former councillor and downtown businessman Denis Walsh said the City shouldn’t go into debt if it doesn’t have to.
The proposed plan is for the City to get a loan for the 90 kiosks and pay it back over 10 years from the new revenue that comes with doubling the parking rates from 50 cents an hour to $1.
Instead, Walsh suggested raising the rates now and use the current meters for a couple more years.
People can use their smart phones to pay for those meters now, he said.
One of the benefits to the kiosks is that people can use credit cards or smart phone apps to pay for their meter time.
Wilson said pay by phone could be used with the existing meters.
Walsh said the technology will be outdated way before the 10 years of the loan are up.
“In 10 years, do you really think you're going to have the same iPhone you have today? Change the rates now and start raising money.”
But some other downtown business owners were gung ho about the kiosks.
Bill Sanesh Jr. said the devices aren’t costing taxpayers as the money to pay for them will come from parking.
"We have a 30 per cent vacancy rate downtown. How high does it have to be? 50 per cent? 60 per cent? We feel we're at a real tipping point."
Dino Bernardo of the Commodore Café agreed.
While he encourages his staff not to use the metered street spaces, it’s cheaper than the off-street lots.
The pricing needs to change to give them an incentive not to use metered stalls, he said.
Patrick Lindsay said if the employees didn’t take up stalls there would be adequate parking downtown.
He didn’t like the reconfiguration of First and Lorne, saying it would confuse people and drive them out of the city centre.
Frank Dwyer had a suggestion that many felt was a good idea. He mentioned how uplifting it is to find a meter with time on it and suggested the kiosks have a luck-of-the-draw feature that gives someone a freebie once in a while.
Council will go over the comments and suggestions on both issues at next Tuesday’s regular meeting.