Downtown Lewes will continue to have parking meters for each individual space.
At its capital projects meeting Oct. 26, mayor and city council approved upgrading the single-space meters with new units instead of converting most areas to multispace stations. All parking lots will continue to have kiosks, but those will also be replaced before next summer.
At its Nov. 13 regular meeting, council selected a proposal from IPS Group, using meters already in place in Rehoboth Beach, Newark and the University of Delaware. The project is expected to cost about $216,000.
Single-space parking meters versus multispace kiosks has been a debate among city officials in Lewes over the last several months.
The city has 91 on-street single-space meters. The meters are very old, and it is difficult to find parts to repair broken meters, said Lewes Parking Supervisor Dennis Crawford.
Crawford urged the city’s downtown parking committee and city council to consider multispace stations. He said they offer a wider range of payment options, collection is easier, and they use better technology. The downside is there may be a learning curve.
Council expressed a fear that people would have difficulty finding the kiosks. Councilwoman Bonnie Osler said the city shouldn’t expect people to walk nearly a block to find the nearest pay station.
“We have some older folks here,” she said. “I’m just trying to be practical.”
One of the biggest selling points for multispace meters, Crawford said, is that they accept paper bills, meaning people who don’t pay via ParkMobile or with a credit card will no longer have to stash quarters in their vehicles or search out a change machine. Darica Ward, owner of Deanna’s and Piccolino on Second Street, said at an earlier downtown parking committee meeting that she supported a system that would reduce the number of coins a person needs to carry with them when visiting Lewes.
“How many people have $3 worth of quarters in their pocket?” she asked at the Sept. 3 meeting. “I think people [would] love it, personally.”
Single-space meters more appropriately fit Lewes, Councilman Dennis Reardon said.
“We have a character to our town,” he said. “I personally like that it’s a small-town atmosphere. [Kiosks] takes it out of that and puts it into more of a modern kind of thing.”
Councilman Rob Morgan was the only member to support multispace stations; Osler left prior to the vote. Morgan said single-space meters are awkward.
“When you walk down Second Street, the tourists are walking slowly and looking in the shop windows,” he said. “As you navigate around them, you’re running into meters all the time, especially when they’ve got bikes locked to them. It becomes a bit of a pedestrian impediment.”
Aesthetics played a part in Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait’s decision. He worried that removing the existing poles would leave an unattractive, mismatched patch on the sidewalk. Although the city still has a pallet of matching bricks, he said, the new bricks would not be as weathered and likely wouldn’t match in color.
Crawford said new solar-powered meters can accept credit cards and coins. The initial cost is cheaper than kiosks and spare parts are readily available. New meters also contain better technology that can be accessed from city hall. The downside is single-space meters have higher operational costs than kiosks, and it’s much more labor-intensive to collect coins. The new meters likely would not accept nickels and dimes as do the existing meters.
Lewes currently has eight pay-and-display kiosks in parking lots at 1812 Park, Canalfront Park, the municipal lot on Third Street, and three at the main public beach and two at the secondary lot. The most common problem with the pay-and-display method, Crawford said, is the tickets get swept off the vehicle’s dashboard, resulting in an unnecessary citation. The kiosks are also old, with limited replacement parts available, and they use 3G modems that will be obsolete within the next few years.