WINCHESTER — Public response to a downtown business owner’s protest over parking meter fees and fines monopolized discussions during Thursday morning’s meeting of the Winchester Parking Authority.
Authority members, the city’s two parking enforcement officers and Facilities Maintenance and Parking Division Manager Corey MacKnight were harshly criticized on social media following an Aug. 10 article in The Winchester Star about Don Warren’s plan to move his technology services business, Warren Systems, from 27 N. Braddock St. due, in part, to the high cost of on-street parking fees and fines he has paid over nearly 25 years.
Warren found a clever way to voice his displeasure: He used the envelopes from 29 parking tickets, each of which carried a $10 fine, to spell out the word “Moving” on his company’s front window.
Comments posted to The Star’s website were divided on the issue, with some supporting Warren and others backing the Parking Authority’s right to charge for parking and penalize meter violations.
MacKnight issued an official response to the comments at Thursday morning’s meeting.
“One of the citizen comments online stated that I personally wrote this individual a parking ticket,” MacKnight said. “This commenter stated he wanted to punch me in the face for doing this to him, and that our enforcement officers get paid based on the amount of tickets they write. ... I am not sworn in by the courts to write tickets, nor have I ever met the person making the violent statements directed towards me.
“The issuance of parking violations is strictly performed by our parking code enforcement officers ... [who] make an hourly wage and receive no incentive in return for how many tickets they issue,” he continued. “It is unfortunate we live in a social media-based society where a violent comment directed towards one individual can be posted and left up for others to read and possibly act on, based on false accusations and misinformation.”
Authority Chairman Dick Helm made no apologies for the 75-cents-an-hour rate for downtown parking meters or the practice of issuing tickets to vehicles parked at expired meters.
“It is working and I believe it’s firm, fair and consistent,” Helm said. “We put a premium on curbside parking. That’s where we want the biggest turnover.”
“The main reason for the meters is not to collect revenue, but to turn over spaces,” added authority member Mike Miller.
The Parking Authority has been up front about its desire for drivers who will be downtown for an extended period of time to park in one of the four garages rather than on the streets. That’s why monthly parking passes for 24-hour-a-day garage access cost $50 a month, which is less than the cost of parking at a meter eight hours a day for nine days.
In the Aug. 10 article, Warren suggested creating a monthly pass for on-street parking as an alternative to feeding the meters or using the city’s parking app, ParkMobile.
The proposal received a tepid response at Thursday’s meeting, with some authority members saying it could cause more problems than it solves because permit holders may monopolize spots near their homes and businesses all day, or complain when they can’t find a convenient parking space.
“It becomes, ‘I feel entitled because I got there first thing in the morning,’” authority member Ben Weber said. “We’re never going to win. ... It’s always going to be a problem.”
Authority member Howard Manheimer said some businesses just aren’t suited for downtown’s paid parking structure.
“If you have a business where you’re coming and going all day long, being in a metered zone on Braddock Street probably isn’t the best place for you,” Manheimer said.
Authority members agreed to continue discussions about on-street parking passes at a future meeting, but expressed doubt about whether the proposal would be viable.
“Nothing that we do is going to be a cure-all for every situation,” Helm said.
Attending Thursday morning’s Winchester Parking Authority meeting in the George Washington Autopark were Chairman Dick Helm, Vice Chairman Howard Manheimer and members William Armstrong, Mike Miller and Ben Weber.