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.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(2) comments

skyhighnet

The person in question is me in this story. I apologize for stating on Facebook I wanted to punch him. I also got confused and thought Corey was the rude meter man. I was unloading band equipment at Piccadilly’s in the loading zone. My flashers are malfunctioning and cut off on me. I came out and had a $30 parking ticket. My 3rd ticket in 3 Thursday’s. I drove over to the fairfax parking garage to complain. I walked in and said WTF. I get s ticket unloading while working. He yelled for me to get out and said sorry about your luck. Then locked the door. The following week, I spent $1.50 in the meter while setting up. When I came out I thought I timed it perfect. It had just expired and that same guy was laughing and writing a ticket. I called him a word and said mail it to me. Which I never got. These meter man and lady are mean, rude and have no feeling or sympathy for anything. You get a ride response saying. I’m just doing my job. Well that doesn’t make it right. This guy pushed me to the point of making me blow up mad. I have never assaulted anyone, nor will I ever. This is just an example of how toxic they are to downtown Winchester. Other cities have discontinued meter parking. Their prices have been on an increase yearly. This is an issue that has to be addressed. So just put my name in the story and Corey, I apologize. I talked to 2 members of the authority board last night and they suggested the route I take to bring this up in city council. Those 2 employees need to be replaced with people that can talk to residents and visitors nicely.

Robina5

I agree wholeheartedly that the WPA is faced with a perpetual balancing act, trying to reconcile the city’s Old Town parking needs with an ever-increasing number of vehicles on the streets. Worse yet, the city is looking at deliberately putting far MORE cars on the historic streets, by means of approving the Lynx project which includes the Towers vacant lot at the corner of Cameron/Piccadilly street, the “EPicc Lofts” to come at the corner of Piccadilly/N Kent after demolition of some historic houses, and now Councilor Willingham’s over-sized project at N Loudoun/W Fairfax St. There will be a considerable increase in the number of vehicles generated by those 3 projects in such a small area, while eliminating existing parking at the same time and not replacing those lost spaces with sufficiently large covered parking facilities. Does the City’s left hand even know what it’s right hand is doing? Pity the poor WPA.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.