The parking meter controversy for downtown Lehighton might not go away, but there's a possibility the meters themselves might.

Lehighton Borough Council is giving serious consideration to removing the meters from the downtown area.

Some merchants have complained that the meters are actually hurting businesses.

However, some other downtown business owners feel the meters are needed and that without them there would be no parking available for customers.

The council has indicated it could possibly remove the meters, but some of the members would first like to obtain more input on the matter from downtown merchants.

George Kogut, a member of the council, has put together a proposal that he has presented to the merchants for comment.

The proposal, which includes scheduling special meetings to be held for public input on the matter and covering the meters for a trial period, is as follows:

Ÿ Objective: To enhance the "Downtown" parking arrangement through various infrastructure upgrades/modifications, thereby, providing the borough with a vibrant structure to maximize the use of this scarce resource.

Ÿ Goal: Maximize the available parking spaces/lots in order to provide the business community with the ability to enhance their business model by offering customers a safe and secure area to park their vehicle while they visit/patronize local businesses.

Ÿ Structural Points: Three discussion items:

Parking lot, behind PNC bank/Alfie's, will be converted into a business only parking lot. The lot will be walled and a ticket stand will be constructed. All business patrons can park in the lot, receive validation from their business visited, and return ticket to booth attendant.

Borough owned, parking area off Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Blvd, will be paved for overflow parking for residents and additional business patrons.

Parking meters will be covered initially, in order to determine whether the plan is providing the net benefits to the business community and visiting patrons. Long-term goal is to remove the parking meters from the downtown business district.

Ÿ Special Meetings/Public Input: Special meetings/Public Input hearings will be scheduled in order to ascertain commentary/feedback from the residents and the business community.

Kogut said he welcomes feedback on the proposal. He said the initial concept "represents a proposal to be vetted among the community and the Borough Council. The points developed can be modified based on input from the participants."

Council member John Bird said he feels, "We need some kind of consensus about parking meters."

Another member of council, Darryl Arner, said he used to be a downtown merchant and the meters may have been a hindrance to his business. He operated a hair styling salon.

"I was a downtown merchant for many years and paid for customers who were getting perms on their head and couldn't run out to feed the meters," he said. He added, though, that without the meters, people will take advantage of the parking situation.

Kogut said he wants to see more emphasis placed on the downtown. "Another business is leaving the downtown," he said, referring to PNC Bank which is closing its downtown Lehighton branch on June 21. "You see empty store fronts. We're trying to be innovative." He said a resolution must occur which accommodates the customers and the merchants.

"You're going to go downtown one day and all you will see are empty store fronts," he remarked.

Bird commented, "It's cultural that the downtowns are decreasing because the malls took over."

He said the borough needs attractions such as tourism. "There's so much rich history of Lehighton that is forgotten," he said.

"This was a central hub of business and commerce," he said.