City signs off on new parking plan

Downtown employers and workers are scrambling to take advantage of the discounted parking prices at the Columbia Street lot near the Full Sail brewery.

Hood River City Manager Lynn Guenther said during the past week 56 of the 135 available spaces have been reserved following news that the city would likely be lowering the monthly fee from $20 to $10. The rental rate at the other three city lots was slated to remain at the current level.

The reduced price at one lot became official on Monday as City Councilors approved the Downtown Parking Plan that will go into effect on July 1. The new plan was drafted after six independent merchants complained about recent city installation of 161 new meters. Guenther said two meetings were scheduled to work out differences after Craig Sabina, owner of Summit Projects, volunteered to spend two hours computer modeling the downtown area with the addition of the 196 existing meters.

“Our goal was to come up with a plan that not everyone was going to be happy with but that the majority of people could buy into,” said Geunther.

The intent of the revisions, said Guenther, was to free up more downtown parking spaces without penalizing business owners and workers. That compromise included offering rates of 25 cents per hour, down 50 percent, for the 65 meters on the south side of State Street. In addition, motorists will be able to buy a $10 monthly pass for those unreserved spaces that will allow them to park up to 10 hours daily.

The remainder of the meters throughout the downtown area will be at full value and the price for a violation remains at $10, double the $5 cost earlier this year.

Guenther anticipates that revenue from the new meters will bring an additional $90,000 per year that can be used to fund law enforcement, the wages of the parking patrol officer and maintenance costs. Prior to installing the new meters, the city grossed about $190,000 from fines, lot rentals and coinage from meters.

Although the city received some complaints about not metering the parking lot behind its own administration building, Guenther said those spaces needed to be left open for use by citizens and public works, fire and police officials. He said city lots will also be more heavily patrolled to prevent unauthorized users from taking up reserved spaces.

Pete Jubitz, owner of Franz Hardware, told Councilors that although he did not like the sharp spike in the fine for violators, he was pleased overall with the compromise worked out between the city and merchants.

“This is moving the right way, it’s better now with this proposal than I’ve ever seen it,” said Jubitz.

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