By CARL SMITH
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the city could soon have an answer to two-hour parking enforcement issues plaguing downtown.
Wiseman told the Starkville Main Street Association Tuesday the city can pursue three options to bolster parking rules already on the books. Two-hour parking codes exist, he said, but currently Starkville Police Department does not have the manpower to consistently check for daytime violations.
Discussions on the subject could continue into January, he said, and any proposal given to the Starkville Board of Aldermen “would be very straight forward.”
The city could contract full enforcement through an outside agency, Wiseman said, a move similar to what Oxford leaders enacted earlier this year. Also, the city could contract for similar services during peak hours, he said.
A third option could model enforcement based upon Columbus’ practices, Wiseman said. While the mayor said he needs more time to study the city’s practices, Columbus Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said the city utilizes a single enforcement officer in its downtown area.
“(Columbus’ downtown parking enforcement) keeps traffic flowing and prevents people from parking in spaces all day. Our downtown merchants have been supportive of the program,” Armstrong said. “From what I can tell, we’ve averaged about $1,300 a month (on parking citations) last year. It’s not a revenue maker. One of the problems any municipality has is always a collection problem. If we collected every ticket, it probably could be a revenue maker.”
“Our main concern (with any parking enforcement proposal) is cost effectiveness. It does not need to be a program that results in new … expenses. I think that is problematic,” Wiseman said. “They have a good model in Oxford, and there are several vendors in the field who would be willing to engage us. I think that’s at least plausible, but I think it would result in the most expense.
“It would probably be the most aggressive (enforcement proposal),” he added. “If this organization is interested in aggressive parking enforcement, that might be something to look at.”
The SMSA Board passed a statement of support for parking enforcement but stopped short of saying which solution it favored.
Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership COO, met with city officials in April about downtown’s two-hour parking issue and a subsequent parking study was conducted over the summer. In May, SPD Chief David Lindley presented the board of aldermen with a report saying the best and cheapest solution would be for businesses to ensure their customers utilize public parking spaces rather than parking in front of where they work.
Gregory said Tuesday the biggest problem with two-hour parking standards occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and involve many downtown businesses’ employees.
“The No. 1 violator we have consistently had … since I’ve been here has simply been the unwillingness of the employers to police their own employees,” Lindley said in May. “If you took the employees parking on Main Street and regulated them to park in the available public parking spots, downtown parking would not be nearly the problem it is now. If all the employees that work in all the businesses on Main Street would utilize the free available public parking lots, we would not have a parking problem on Main Street.”
Continued discussions on two-hour parking enforcement are needed to work out nuances and develop the best overall plan, Wiseman said.
“We could even form some kind of committee that looks at all of this with a more-vetted view,” he said. “Once one of these options is executed, if there’s backlash to it, it’s not something that can be immediately undone.”