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No more meters

Published February 26. 2013 05:03PM

Lehighton Borough Council is considering removing the parking meters from its downtown.

Some discussion regarding this occurred during a meeting of the council last night. At next month's meeting, Councilman George Kogut will present a written proposal on the matter.

The proposal would be to remove the meters, have validated parking for shoppers at a lot behind Alfie's Pizza, and pave a parking lot along Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard to add additional parking spaces.

"This is a proposal," stressed Kogut. "It's up for discussion. It's up for debate to build some framework."

He said he is hoping he receives more input from downtown merchants.

For decades the parking meters in the downtown have been a source of controversy among downtown merchants and council members. While some merchants argue that there is a need for the meters, others counter that they discourage downtown shopping.

Those who favor the meters state that without them, residents who live in the downtown vicinity will park all day in spaces which customers would utilize.

Councilman John Bird suggested a two-hour parking limit be imposed after meters are taken out.

"We can put signs up, but how are you going to enforce it?" asked Mayor Donald Rehrig.

"Chalk tires," said Bird.

The mayor responded, "So you're going to have police go down and chalk tires?"

Bird said he wouldn't expect police to check tires every two hours. There could be periodic or random checks.

"They do it in Allentown," said Council President Grant Hunsicker.

"They have a parking authority in Allentown," answered Rehrig.

Bird said without parking rules, people will leave their cars parked on First Street for days without moving them.

Councilman John Kreitz suggested that if a sign puts limits on the amount of time a vehicle can be parked on the street, then merchants who see vehicles parked a long time could call the police to mark the tires.

"I'll write something up," Kogut said. "It's a proposal. We can modify it all we want."

He said that in meeting with members of the business community, parking issues have been a major concern.

Bird said he is still hoping to somehow get angle parking returned to the Lower Park area, although some council members said they doubt PennDOT will approve such a proposal.

Diagonal parking had at one time existed at the Lower Park, but was eliminated on orders from PennDOT a number of years ago possibly in the 1980s when a repaving project occurred.

Chief of Police Neil Ebbert presented to the council a packet containing letters he received from individuals unhappy with meter parking in the downtown; specifically the $20 tickets that are given for parking at expired meters.

Among those comments:

• "Thanks for picking on senior citizens. I saw the cop and told him I'm on my way out of store (sic). Tell him to go after drug dealers and not parking meters."

• "I am almost never in your 'downtown' during the week but since I was without power, I decided to get something to eat at a local eatery. My hometown, Palmerton, does not imply this antiquated system of parking meters. I truly did not even think about the meter as I am accustomed to weekend parking policy. However, I did not follow your rules, so I will pay the fine. It will be a long time, though, before I visit your 'downtown' again. As I see from the empty store fronts, perhaps others feel the practice is ridiculous as well."

• "I am complaining of no leniency for a senior citizen with a handicap license plate. I am paying the $20, but am stating I think the money is excessive. Where are the monies going? Don't look like it is being spent on revitalization of downtown."

• "No wonder people are leaving Lehighton."

Someone who moved to the downtown area wrote, "Suggestion: When moving permits are paid for, hand out the township by-laws so that all citizens are aware. This ($20 ticket) could have been avoided. I am an average citizen, single mom, trying to make ends meet and pay my bills, not make your life harder."

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