By Tom Holmes
Local businesses and residents are divided over a recent Village Council proposal to reinstall parking meters on downtown Madison Street, as a way to help fill an anticipated $1 million budget shortfall.
The village got rid of Madison's parking meters in 2000, said Tim Gillian, village administrator. He said metered areas are free after 6p.m. In a statement, Commissioner Joe Byrne said the council has talked about this proposal at budget meetings, but still needs to do more research.
Ray Lusson, of Forest Park, said anyone who thinks adding new meters is a good idea is "part of the problem."
"The village of Forest Park should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting the most prudent or rational path to a sound budget is to collect more tax revenue," Lusson said. "The obvious and intelligent answer appears to be that the village needs to stop spending irresponsibly."
Mike Radzilowski, of Oak Park, said the village gets business from providing free parking.
"I would not mess with that," he said.
Julie Doloszyzki serves as a walking example of that business. Doloszyzki, of Forest Park, said she decides where to eat and shop based on the amount of free parking nearby.
"I park on the side streets and walk so that I do not have to park in the lots with the difficult-to-use meters," she said.
But at a "Business After Hours" event at Grand Appliance and TV on October 26, none of the 15 Chamber of Commerce members present objected to metered parking.
"Free parking causes people to leave their cars in the free spaces longer than they otherwise would if charged," said Erik Fjelstad, Chamber secretary.
Gillian said he has received letters from Madison Street business owners in favor of pay-to-park. If metered parking were installed, he said the village would likely add pay boxes around the downtown business district and on Roosevelt Road. It would be a pay-by-plate system, and enforced using plate-reading technology and the police department's parking enforcement officers, Gillian said.
"In any scenario, the parking vendor would install the equipment and we would split revenue until the hardware is paid off," he said.
Council members have previously discussed limiting parking on Madison Street to three hours and charging 50 cents an hour during the day, and a dollar an hour at night. This could generate an additional $400,000 in revenue, Gillian has said.
Total Parking Solutions, which provides metered parking boxes in Chicago, has been discussed as a possible technology vendor. Their pay boxes cost about $9,000 each.
This article has been changed to correct Tim Gillian's job title. He is village administrator, not village manager.