June 22, 2019 9:58:17 PM
The city of Starkville plans to look at parking meters as a possible solution to parking issues downtown and in the Cotton District.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the board of aldermen will hear presentations from two parking meter companies -- SP+ Parking Management Group and IPS Group -- at its next two work sessions on June 28 and July 12 about potentially installing meters.
"We get lots of complaints from restaurants about people hogging parking spaces," she said. "They're not paying and not eating in the restaurants or allowing turnover. This is just one way to potentially address that."
Should the city look at parking meters, Spruill said they may initially be deployed in the Cotton District and midtown areas.
"I say that because those are the areas that have the greatest parking dilemma -- shortages of parking and people staying overnight," she said. "That would give us a chance to roll that out in that area and see how it works and where it would be impactful."
Starkville has had parking meters in the past, Spruill said, but it's been a long time -- 20-plus years -- since they were used. If the city decides to go ahead with parking meters, Spruill said they would be similar to the ones Mississippi State University uses. The ones on MSU's campus allow for credit or debit card use, and users enter their vehicle license plate number to purchase time.
However, Spruill said the presentations aren't necessarily a guarantee that Starkville will install parking meters. They are a chance for city leaders to research the issue and determine if it's an option they're interested in.
Starkville Greater Development Partnership interim CEO Jennifer Prather said Starkville's Main Street Association has worked for years to find a solution to parking issues downtown.
While she said parking usage and inventory studies have shown there's not a shortage of parking downtown, there is limited space available on the street in front of shops and restaurants.
"The Main Street Association's ultimate goal in finding a suitable solution to parking is to better support commerce for our local businesses," Prather said. "Allowing customers easy access to the establishments which they are attempting to visit is integral to their livelihood."
The city has two-hour parking along the streets downtown, with lots, such as the one near the Oktibbeha County Courthouse Annex and another behind Starkville Cafe, that allow for longer-term parking. However, she said, there are still problems with parking turnover in the spots along the street.
Some of that, she said, can be attributed to issues with business employees parking in the two-hour areas.
"The two-hour parking restriction does offer some support of the effort to turn over parking, but it is possible that installing meters could be a more efficient way to operate," Prather said. "For the Main Street Association and Partnership, parking meters would be most beneficial in turning over parking spaces if the meters are equipped with certain features, such as one that does not allow a meter to be fed all day for the same vehicle."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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