BANGOR, Maine — City councilors on Wednesday amended a previous subcommittee recommendation to increase Bangor’s overtime parking fee downtown from $10 to $12, rather than $15.
The amendment to the parking fee increase was introduced by Councilor Hal Wheeler, who contended that a 50 percent increase was too steep. The downtown parking advisory committee had made the recommendation in April to increase from $10 to $15 to help generate extra revenue, an estimated $67,000 annually.
Wheeler and others felt the increase was too drastic and could deter people from visiting the downtown.
One impetus for the proposed change is the new parking garage at Eastern Maine Medical Center, which is set to open June 1. The hospital had leased more than 100 spaces from the city in the Pickering Square garage downtown for employee use. Those employees were then shuttled to EMMC on outer State Street.
When EMMC pulls out, the city will lose an estimated $115,000 in annual revenue. Some of that total will be made up when the new Penobscot County courthouse on Exchange Street opens, but that won’t happen until sometime this fall.
Councilors also agreed at Wednesday’s meeting to reduce the number of courtesy or free tickets Bangor allows from four to three annually.
Most councilors agreed that the city’s policy of courtesy tickets is attractive to visitors, but has become a problem for downtown employees who are abusing the city’s leniency. One of the things that would help crack down on repeat offenders is hand-held computers for parking attendants, which would facilitate tracking of certain vehicles. That idea has not moved forward because it would require a significant investment by the city.
Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick, the representative for the downtown parking advisory committee, said that the reduction in courtesy tickets was a small step toward addressing the problem.
Pat Blanchette, the only councilor to oppose the courtesy ticket reduction, has said in the past that she doesn’t support the program at all and said Wednesday that the city worries too much about offending tourists.
Wednesday’s changes to downtown parking were added to the recent increase of between $3 and $10 in monthly rates for all downtown parking lots, depending on the location of the lot. Again, those changes were made to increase revenues to the city, which it will use to make parking infrastructure upgrades, many of which are overdue.
Despite the rash of recent changes, the parking debate is likely not finished. There has been increased discussion recently over revisiting the option of installing parking meters downtown, although it’s unlikely that will gain momentum because it would require extensive costs up-front.
Yet another change that is being considered is the time limit for downtown spots. Wheeler has suggested increasing the time from one hour to 90 minutes. That issue is likely to come before the city in the coming weeks.