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Carbon Commissioners hear more parking rate complaints

Published August 16. 2013 05:04PM

A number of Jim Thorpe business owners again asked the Carbon County commissioners to drop the county's weekend parking lot fee.

During the board's meeting on Thursday, Dan Hugos of Amazing Jim Thorpe, Betty Lou McBride of the Old Jail Museum, Thomas Lux of the Mauch Chunk 5&10, and Michael Guy of Rainbow's End, approached the board to again see if the county would reconsider the $10 fee because, the group said, it is hurting business in the town.

Hugos pointed out that in July, according to the parking statistics for the county-owned lot that were obtained through the Right-to-Know office, a total of 530 fewer cars parked in the lot on weekends and 450 fewer on weekdays.

"The reason we bring this up is it represents a severe hardship on local businesses," he said.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman said those figures, which are being compared to 2012, aren't the whole picture.

He read from a document prepared by the county controller's office, comparing the amount of cars that parked in the lot in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

According to the figures, a total of 10,748 tickets were sold for parking in the lot between January and June 2010; during that same time period in 2011, the figure was 10,759; from January to June 2012, 12,943; and from January to June 2013, 10,418.

Nothstein pointed out that if you take 2012, which Nothstein called "an exceptional year" overall, out of the equation, the parking is only down 3.1 percent from 2011 or 2010 instead of 19 percent from 2012.

Nothstein added that he thinks 2012 was such a good year because Jim Thorpe was selected as one of the most beautiful small towns in America by Rand McNally and USA Today.

One business owner said that the selection had no effect on the town.

Nothstein said then that differs from what he was told by other businesses in the community.

McBride commented that the voting for the 2012 Best Small Towns in America Best of The Road contest was later in the year and didn't bring people into Jim Thorpe because of it.

Jim Thorpe was named a finalist of the contest in May and was visited by "Best of The Road" rally team Nikki and Dustin Green in early June. It was officially named one of five "most beautiful" towns in America in July 2012.

McBride continued that other big events, like Musikfest in Bethlehem, realized people need help and lowered the parking fees.

"We are going in the opposite direction," she said. "I don't want to look like Coaldale with empty main streets."

Lux brought up another problem that is occurring because of the parking fee.

He noted that the cars that are not parking in the lot are circling the town looking for a free or metered spot and causing congestion along Route 209.

Guy said he heard from customers about the fee and many said they would not be back.

He then said that the fee hurts the local people because they are charged the same amount as tourists and only want to spend a few hours here.

He suggested finding a way to charge by the hour instead of a flat fee.

Bob Crampsie, county controller, agreed with the suggestion, saying that is how it is in other areas, like Bethany Beach, Del., where the driver parks the car and then goes to a kiosk, inserts a credit card and pays for the number of hours the car will be in the lot.

Nothstein said there were issues to that including people complaining because they are charged differently; and congestion at the railroad crossing.

Hugos suggested that the county lower the fee during regular weekends and double it on special weekends, such as the St. Patrick's Day parade, Fall Foliage Festival and Old Time Christmas.

The issue about the increase in the parking fee has been festering over the last few months.

The county increased the weekend price to $10 in late February.

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