People familiar with downtown’s layout realize plenty of free parking spaces exist. The hazy part — often frustrating downtown residents, entrepreneurs and anyone visiting the area — revolves around long-lingering issues left unaddressed for years.
Ideally, a parking plan approved Monday will answer the following questions:
• Should people, including those leaving their cars in city lots for days while they hop on boats to nearby islands, pay to park?
• Are city officials going to install meters, limiting people how long they store their cars on streets?
• Can employees hog prime parking spots in front of shops or stores all day, forcing customers to walk great distances so they can spend money?
• Will city officials possibly assign an officer to vigorously enforce parking rules posted on signs?
Arizona-based parking company Kimley-Horn and Associates will provide resolution to these inquiries and more after after analyzing patterns and compiling data during the next few months.
Members representing Sandusky Main Street Association, a private organization advocating for downtown development, selected the company after area residents and business owners brought these parking issues and others up during a community meeting some months ago.
The study depended upon a $20,000 donation from the Dorn Foundation.
City taxpayers contributed the remaining $18,500 following a 5-1 commission vote, with commissioner Wes Poole dissenting and commissioner Diedre Cole absent.
“I do want to say parking downtown has not been mismanaged — it has been ignored,” Poole said.
Poole voted ‘no’ after citing problems with John Lippus, the association’s executive director, spearheading the process in selecting a company.
If taxpayers are spending money, Poole argued city officials should’ve quarterbacked the effort in receiving bids from multiple companies interested in formulating a parking plan.
“This is a lot of money to spend and tell us what we already know downtown,” Poole said. “We circumvented the process and we went outside of it.”
Lippus countered Poole’s statement by saying he followed all ethical policies city officials normally abide by during a bid process.
Meanwhile, commissioner Julie Farrar voiced her approval for the plan.
“We have to make sure we have a plan in place for parking, and we have to create some revenue from parking,” Farrar said. “People pay to park all the time. Any city I visit, I have to pay to park.
Farrar wondered aloud, including suggesting adding another level atop the Erie County Office Building’s parking garage, if city residents and others should pay to park in downtown.
“In my personal opinion, $18,500 is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we have spent over the years on other things,” Farrar said.
Several downtown residents, business owners and others concerned with the plan voiced their opinion at Monday’s public meeting:
“We support the study. We have many parking problems when we have large events.”
— Sandusky State Theatre board member Tom Sloma
“We have some challenges down here, and one of them is parking. A professional and unbiased, detailed study is really important to me.”
— Downtown resident Matt Ehrhardt
“I have some serious concerns over this. It’s no good to do a study if you don’t have the money.”
— Sandusky resident Sharon Johnson
“This study will provide some insight on how we can properly manage and provide some solutions to parking.”
— Downtown business owner Cesare Avallone
“We need everyone to understand we don’t’ have a parking problem. We have parking management issues. We have enough parking spaces, but they are not managed in the best way. The parking situation today could affect future growth and business development.
— Sandusky Main Street Association executive director John Lippus.