Business owners in Easton have concerns about parking meter fees

EASTON, Pa. - Local business owners of Easton voiced their concerns with an increase to parking meter fees in the city at City Council's conference meeting Tuesday night.

Currently the meters are active from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday with Sunday as a free parking day.

The proposal would change the hours to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and possibly take away free parking Sundays.

"Parking meters are a huge hurt to small businesses," stated Anthony Burks, a business owner who recently moved to Easton. Burks said people come downtown to shop, look around and enjoy themselves. "If you do make any changes, consider the small businesses that depend on people that walk around," he said.

"We're trying to drive traffic to the garage where there is a demand for parking on the street," said council member Michael Fleck.

The City is considering lowering the parking deck to .50 cents an hour at night, and possibly free after 4 p.m. due to it's low usage.

"The vast majority of our people who visit downtown stay less than an hour," stated Easton Mayor Sal Panto, explaining the results from the city's $35,000 parking study.  Parking spots used during the city's free weekend days had around 40% of the spots filled by business owners and employees, the Mayor said.

The city is planning on updating its meters to accept credit card payments but this would increase the parking fees to $1 per hour, which is the minimum of a credit card meter.

"We know everyone else is going to a dollar an hour," stated the Mayor, referencing Bethlehem's credit card parking meters.

Marie Steltz, owner of Marie's Dance Center, 345 Northampton St., also voiced her opinion with concerns of the parking. "Raising it to a dollar will drive some of the businesses away."

The Mayor stated the City does not know where to get the money and believes it should take the advice from the parking consultant since it already spent the money.

The city is having problems funding the pension fund for city employees. A commuter tax will be implemented January 1, 2013 which should see $1.3 million in revenue.

The 2013 budget still needs to be fully approved by council before the end of the year. The budget draft includes raising over 70 fees for permits and licenses.

The budget will be introduced at the Regular meeting of the Easton City Council scheduled for 6 p.m. November 28 in City Council Chambers in City Hall, One South Third Street.

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