POMEROY — After Monday’s meeting of Pomeroy Village Council, downtown parking is completely and totally free for all customers and visitors to the area.
Members of the Pomeroy Merchants Association presented results of a free-parking pilot program initiated last year during Monday’s meeting.
For several months, Pomeroy’s river walk parking lot and Main Street have been free parking zones in an effort to improve foot traffic and visitor experience. When implemented, the council requested merchants provide feedback on the measure after the new year.
Speaking in the latter half of the three-hour meeting, Main Street shop owner Paige Cleek told the council, “We were given this time frame to test it, and we believe it has been successful.”
Stating all the merchants in attendance had seen improved business, Cleek continued, “We have been very vocal about how this helps our business from the beginning and we would like to see all paid parking removed.”
Susan Clark, who operates a business on Court Street, argued for removal of meters and parking fees, pointing to the stresses imposed on customers and visitors to town.
She described meters as an outdated technology and general inconvenience.
“We are your face downtown, we are in this together. Let’s bring Pomeroy out of 50 years ago and into this great place that is happening now,” she concluded.
In the past, a point raised in favor of meters past has been downtown congestion, and a concern indefinite free parking could incentivize non-shoppers to fill spaces, blocking consumer traffic.
In a December meeting, Councilperson Phil Ohlinger, who supported removal, pointed out turnover on back streets could slow after halting parking costs.
Moves by the Meigs County Commissioner to provide parking for courthouse employees alleviated some concerns of bottleneck, and the board sent an official letter to village council supporting removal.
The letter from the commissioners addressed to Council President Don Anderson stated,
“We have been in communication with several of the merchants regarding the parking meters in town. We fully support the idea of removing the parking meters. Based on input from our local merchants, there was a significant increase in revenue in the last quarter of 2016 when meters were not in use.
Our employees utilize two courthouse parking lots, and we encourage them to use the former Powell’s lot for overflow, so we certainly do not foresee our employees using the street for parking.
The merchants of Pomeroy share a common vision of Pomeroy as a place that is customer friendly; a shopping, entertainment, and dining experience where visitors to the town can stay and patronize several businesses on a single visit. We know our local merchants are the backbone of our economic development, and if they see this as a necessity for their businesses to thrive in Pomeroy, then we certainly want to support them.”
An immediate concern by council was recouping the $14,000 spent on the most recent installation of parking meters in 2016. Around $7,000 has been brought in as parking revenue since then, though that number includes all sources downtown.
A complete financial picture has been difficult to determine, as the parking revenue and costs have not been uniformly tracked: meter revenue and ticket revenue were usually not kept separate, an unknown number of meters spent lengthy periods full but not emptied (appearing as broken to users), and complete labor costs for collection have not been calculated.
Ultimately, the council set aside any potential outstanding deficit on the basis continued success of downtown businesses would also generate money for the village.
Council also determined to explore selling the meters after they are removed, further defraying expenses.
After the merchants stated they had already paid more labor hours because of a significant increase in customers, the council voted unanimously to make the whole of downtown Pomeroy free parking.
“We think it is just wonderful you’ve come to this decision,” said Clark. “You’ll never know how much we appreciate this.”
Michael Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.
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