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Drivers find surprise at local parking meters

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

People should have been better informed of the parking meter increase on 12th Street, says Rosie McGowan, who manages a local business.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Because one of her employees kept getting parking tickets on 12th Street even though she was feeding the meter as usual, Rosie McGowan said she “stopped the meter maid and asked ‘What’s going on here?’”

McGowan then learned the city had doubled the parking rate on 12th Street to make it uniform with the rest of the city.

The parking meter rate went from 15 cents to 30 cents an hour within the last three weeks, but the new price increase was never publicized, which one city official acknowledged was an embarrassing mistake.

In an expensive city where many people live on a tight budget, people should have been informed, said McGowan and others interviewed Friday on 12th Street.

“The pay scale most people are making in this town is not commensurate with the cost of living,” said McGowan, a manager for AREM Property Management. “We have to pay $65 a month to park. For my employees, that’s hard.”

Because Max Scholfield owns a cash key, which can be bought in increments of $10 to $50, Scholfield is used to turning the key in a parking meter without looking to see how much time he was buying.

When told of the price increase on Friday, Scholfield said, “That is a lot. Give them hell.”

A financial adviser, Scholfield arrives early to find a spot.

“I’m the first one here every morning. I’m here nine to 10 hours a day. You can’t park anywhere else,” he said.

Because the street has 19 10-hour meters, meaning drivers can park there for up to 10 hours without refeeding the meter or moving their vehicles, many commuters are used to parking there all day.

At 15 cents an hour, 12th Street had the cheapest rate in town – for a few years at least. The 10-hour meters on Narrow Gauge Avenue have been 30 cents an hour for years, said Amber Blake, the city’s multimodal administrator who recently was put in charge of parking.

The error was discovered during an audit this spring, she said.

It was not immediately known how much revenue the city lost over the years because the meters were undercharging motorists, Blake said.

Because the city was correcting an error, an internal decision was made to update the meters on 12th Street to the current rate, Blake said.

“There really was not a rate increase,” said Blake, explaining that a rate increase would have been subject to public hearings and public notice.

Blake apologized for not publicizing the price increase.

“The intent was not to pull one over on the public,” Blake said. “It was an administrative oversight. We’re embarrassed we did not communicate to the public.”

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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