There may soon be a new method to pay for parking in Lewes.
Mayor and city council June 9 voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Ted Becker to negotiate a two-year agreement with Park Mobile, a company that offers a smartphone application allowing motorists to pay by credit card.
“This would enable our visitors and residents to have yet another choice in how they pay for their meter,” Becker said.
City Manager Paul Eckrich said the city chose a plan with low upfront costs. With an investment of about $2,000, the city will purchase three smartphones and necessary accessories for its meter readers. With the equipment, the parking personnel will access the application to determine if a car is legally parked.
The addition of Parkmobile will not affect other forms of parking payment. Nickels, dimes and quarters will still be accepted at meters and credit cards may be used to pay for parking in the city's lots.
Parkmobile is already used in Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach and Washington, D.C., so it is expected visitors will quickly embrace the new method, Councilwoman Bonnie Osler said.
“I think we're going to see lower parking meter fines, which is a loss of revenue to the city, but a loss of revenue we'd all like to have because people don't want to be angry when they come to Lewes,” she said.
Paper tickets will still be issued for violations, and cannot be paid through the Parkmobile app.
In addition to regular parking fees, Parkmobile charges a transaction fee of 35 cents. Participating municipalities may also add additional fees to offset other incurred expenses, such as credit card transaction fees. Lewes is charged 19 cents per transaction whenever someone uses a credit card at one of its lot meter stations. Staying in line with its southern neighbor Rehoboth, Lewes council agreed charging 15 cents additional per transaction – 50 cents in total with Park Mobile's fee.
“I certainly use Parkmobile when I'm in Washington, and it is well worth the 50 cents for the convenience it gives you,” Osler said.
Other benefits, Becker said, is a built-in mechanism that will not allow someone to park in a space longer than its three-hour limit. That will also help with parking-space turnover and, he said, prevents the next driver from piggybacking off the remaining time.
Eckrich said a timetable for implementation is still unclear. The city still needs to negotiate a contract, purchase equipment and train staff, he said, so late July is likely the earliest possible date. Lewes parking meters are in effect annually from May 1 to Oct. 14.