In what Village Administrator Tim Gillian has described as “a vehicle to create more revenue,” Forest Park will soon have paid parking, at least on Madison Street, from Harlem Avenue to Jackson Boulevard, and on Circle Avenue between Franklin and Harlem Avenues. The Village Council finalized rates, hours and locations for pay boxes at a meeting on Jan. 13.

In September 2019, the council approved a loan from Forest Park National Bank at 3.25 percent interest to pay for the pay boxes from Total Parking Solutions (TPS). Now the machines are almost ready and will be installed and operational by the end of January. Gillian estimates that revenue from parking will pay off the loan, which he said is around $290,000, within two years.

Parking will cost $1 an hour Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight on Madison Street and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Circle Avenue. There will be no charge for parking on Sundays. All meters in town will also be replaced by pay boxes.

The original proposal brought before the board was to have drivers pay for parking beginning at 6 a.m. in all areas. But Commissioners Jessica Voogd and Joe Byrnes pushed to change the Madison Street start hour from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. because they didn’t want residents out having breakfast to have to pay for parking that early.

“I’m not married to 6 a.m.,” said Gillian. “I fully understand that it’s usually Forest Park residents who are out early at Louie’s at 6 a.m., so I’d be happy to adjust it to 8 a.m.” He did urge the council, however, to stick to the midnight part of the proposal.

“I would really like the council to agree with the until midnight part,” Gillian said. “The attempt is to capture as many folks as we could from bars and restaurants in the evenings and at night.”

And Gillian did want to leave the 6 a.m. start time for paid parking for the section of Circle Avenue between Franklin and Harlem. “There are a lot of people who park there to jump on the Green Line before 8 a.m.,” he said.

In terms of rates, Gillian said although the initial plan was to charge 75 cents an hour, he wanted to up it to a dollar instead.

“We originally talked about 75 cents,” said Gillian. “But since then, we determined that out of each [credit card] swipe, the various credit card companies take about 16 cents of that, so we’re not going to end up with the money we need frankly to pay that debt as quickly as I’d like to pay it. So that’s why we moved it to a dollar. Every parking lot, once this is passed, will go to a dollar an hour.”

He added that Oak Park charges a dollar an hour for the first three hours of parking, and then three dollars for every hour after that. “We’re well within what’s reasonable,” Gillian said.

Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, shared her thoughts on paid parking with the Review.

“Throughout the entire process the Chamber has been working with village staff to come up with the best solution to ensure that parking is available for customers who wish to shop, dine and utilize the services provided by local businesses.  With no restrictions on time, customers are encouraged to shop, dine and take care of business at their leisure.  The Chamber is pleased that the Village continues to be ‘on board’ with providing some free parking for Madison Street business owners and employees as stated in the ordinance, and we will be working with our local businesses to encourage them to utilize those spaces,” said Kokenes.

Mayor Rory Hoskins and Commissioners Ryan Nero, Voogd and Byrnes voted in favor of the parking ordinance. Commissioner Dan Novak voted against it but was unavailable for comment by press time.

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