A controversial plan to require people to feed Allentown parking meters until 9 p.m. six days a week has been tabled until at least late May by City Council.
During a meeting lasting more than four hours Wednesday night, council approved a hotly debated liquor license transfer to a former nuisance bar in east Allentown.
It also approved new admission fees for its four swimming pools and a $5 million capital improvements plan.
Only the new pool fees unanimously were approved by the six council members at the meeting.
They also agreed to eliminate proposed new fees on adults over age 59, who will continue to enjoy the pools for free.
Council member Jeanette Eichenwald recommended tabling action on the parking meter change until council learns more about how it will impact both residents and businesses.
Tamara Dolan, executive director of the Allentown Parking Authority, said it has not asked center city businesses how it will affect them.
City managing director Francis Dougherty said, “We heard testimony from those who have experienced this transition in Bethlehem” during a council public works committee meeting last week.
“It’s not like we’re doing this in a vacuum,” said Dougherty. “It’s not like we’re the first to do it. Easton has already done it, Bethlehem has already done it.”
“But we haven’t heard from the businesses in Allentown,” countered Eichenwald. “Shouldn’t I know what the businesses in Allentown think about this? I need to know how it will impact Allentown.”
“Neither City Council or the mayor’s office received one phone call on this issue,” said Dougherty.
Eichenwald disagreed, saying she received emails about it.
Currently parking meters must be fed between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The administration wants council to extend those hours until 9 p.m. daily.
Enforcement of residential parking permits also will be extended until 9 p.m.
If the meter changes are approved, they will take effect on Sept. 1, based on a vote by the six council members. (Council member Peter Schweyer was absent.)
Both council president Julio Guridy and Ray O’Connell initially wanted to vote on the proposed parking regulations immediately.
But Guridy changed his mind after learning more about the issue.
The vote to table the proposed changes was 4-2. O’Connell and Council member Joe Davis voted against tabling.
Dougherty argued against delaying action, because the administration needs time to educate residents about the changes. He also said those changes are just one part of a master plan for traffic that is underway to prepare for the opening of the city’s new hockey arena.
Not all parking meters are around hockey arena
Some council members were surprised to learn that not all of Allentown’s 1,500 parking meters are located in center city. One resident told them meters are along 2nd Street and Ridge Avenue.
But Dolan said most meters are in the central business district – from 4th to 10th or 11th streets and from Walnut to Linden streets.
Guridy was concerned that the administration wants to extend the hours on all meters in the city. He was under the impression they were going to be extended only in the blocks surrounding the hockey arena.
Resident Ken Heffentrager called the increased meter enforcement hours “ridiculous.”
Heffentrager told council: “You’re all elected by us. Not one person walked up here and supported this.”