BELLAIRE - The village's Finance Committee met Wednesday evening in order to discuss matters of the budget and changes that need to be made with village funds.
In order to balance the budget before the April 1 deadline, more than $100,000 was taken from the safety fund, which includes the Bellaire Police Department, and placed into the general fund - a decision which was passed by council on March 27. On Wednesday, the committee discussed several options for reapportioning those funds back into the police department, one of which was the removal of village parking meters.
"There are going to be tough decisions to be made to make cuts," committee member Josh Meyer said, explaining that the parking meters are causing the village to lose money and that the parking meter fund will not be able to sustain itself. Many of the meters are outdated and in need of repair.
"Those meters are dying on a daily basis," he said. "There have been times when I can't even put money in some of those meters, so we're not getting everything out of them we can anyway. It's a waste."
If the village should keep the parking meters, Bellaire stands to lose in excess of $2,000 this year alone, not factoring in the maintenance nor the wages of the employees who perform the repairs and monitor the meters.
The parking meter fund could account for almost half of the money taken from the police department should it be absorbed by the general fund. However, much of the debate over whether or not to begin removing the meters, thereby abolishing the need for a parking meter fund, centered around how it will effect the businesses in Bellaire.
Committee member Jim Williams stated that the village could possibly lose more money by removing the meters. "If you do away with the meters, you're going to lose the parking in the village lot," he said, explaining that there would be no need for citizens to pay to park there when they could park on the street for free. "There's $5,000 a month you're going to kick out the door right away."
Many of the paid spots in the parking lot to which Williams referred are occupied by employees of businesses within the village. Mayor Vincent DiFabrizio explained that many of the businesses in Bellaire do not allow their employees to park immediately in front of their workplaces because there is limited parking in the village and customers should be able to have ease of access. Therefore, the village parking lot would still be an ideal place for local employees to park.
"You're not going to lose what you have now," he said about the village lot parking fees.
Although there was some debate over whether or not to remove the parking meters, the consensus was that some action needs to be taken soon.
The committee presented various ideas of how to make the parking situation in the village viable without the meters, especially in reference to local businesses. It was suggested that many customers would appreciate free parking, but that there should still be a time limit enforced to ensure that non-customers cannot take up parking spots needed by businesses in the village.
The committee discussed the possibility of color-coded parking spaces for village businesses, and perhaps instituting diagonal parking on one or both sides of the street, which would roughly double the amount of parking available now.
The village is seeing more visitors because of local businesses, according to committee member Tom Sable. Sable stated that the village has not seen this much activity since the mid-1980s. With the Farmers' Market events this summer, the village will see even more traffic coming though. In a way, the lack of parking in the village is a good problem to have because it means that local businesses are doing well.
Should the meters be removed, the process would be completed over the course of about 90 days. Tentatively, the village would first remove the meters around the park, then the meters near residential areas, and finally, the meters on Belmont and Guernsey Street near local businesses.
The issue will be discussed at the next council meeting on Thursday, April 17. Mayor DiFabrizio has invited all local business owners to attend the meeting and participate in the discussion.
"I want to hear their concerns," he said. "I want them to voice their opinions about the parking meters."
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Bellaire Police Station.
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