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by Paul Leakan
(June 5)It wasn't easy.
Clarksburg Parking Authority members were a little reluctant at first. The city council's proposal to raise parking rates seemed too extreme. They wondered: What does this do for downtown parking?
After some consideration, however, they agreed Thursday that the proposal was the best solution to Clarksburg's parking woes.
"The longer you wait, the more deterioration there'll be," said CPA member Steven Trahanis, citing run-down parking areas such the 23-year-old Hewes Avenue parking garage.
The proposal, which may raise on-street and off-street meter rates to 50 cents per hour and monthly rates by $5, has outraged some citizens.
But improvements to the existing parking lots, including upgrades of the Hewes Avenue garage and the lot behind the Clarksburg-Harrison County Library, will be beneficial to the city, according to Frank Ferrari, Clarksburg director of finance.
"I feel we need to look at this thing as the whole picture," Ferrari said. "We really need to try to move this thing forward."
Though City Manager Percy Ashcraft said the proposed ordinance provides better accessibility to meters and less traffic, some CPA members weren't originally sold on the measure.
"It seems to me we're leaning to monthly parking," said CPA member Rodney Ferruso. "We're not doing anything to help downtown parking as far as increasing parking meters."
The proposal, generating an estimated $124,967 in yearly revenue, does add more meters, Ferrari said. Because of the upgrades to the Hewes Avenue garage and the library, there may be around 50 to 75 new meters, he added.
The city should also take into account the effect the increased rates may have on downtown businesses and local citizens, Ferruso said.
With empty storefronts as a reminder of businesses moving away from downtown to strip malls around the area, Ferruso is worried about the impact the ordinance may have on local businesses.
"How much longer before the banks say this isn't feasible anymore?" Ferruso said.
Local businesses may actually be helped, however, according to Ashcraft. He said the safer, cleaner lots will encourage more people to come downtown.
And he said a possible increase in parking fines, currently 50 cents if paid within a specified time period, would free up more spaces by deterring people from overtime parking.
Not far from becoming law, the proposal is scheduled for further discussion at a special meeting of the Clarksburg Parking Authority at 9 a.m. Friday, June 12, in the Municipal Building.
Clarksburg City Council plans to present the first reading of the ordinance on June 18. The second and final reading, along with a public hearing, is slated for July 2.