Anyone who parks along Bexley streets should consider becoming more mindful of the restrictions, because at last week's City Council meeting, members discussed hiring a part-time parking officer to enforce laws and write tickets.
In response to the proposal made by the city's Alternative Revenue Committee to place parking meters throughout the city to add revenue to the general fund, Mayor Ben Kessler introduced an ordinance at the March 19 meeting for the new position. He said having a part-time parking officer would not just generate ticket revenue, but would provide information necessary prior to investing in meters.
"I sit in City Hall and look at the cars parked out front and three hours later, they are still there," Kessler said. "People are constantly breaking the parking laws and there's nothing I can do about it because there has to be someone out there chalking tires and writing tickets."
During the hour-long discussion on the topic, Councilman Mark Masser shared his concern that hiring a parking officer is Kessler's way of taking the meter issue off the table.
Masser countered all of the mayor's points as to why a parking officer would be needed and what he or she would do, saying, "I'm a very strong proponent for parking meters in the city of Bexley."
Masser questioned why the city was delaying the addition of meters that could drive revenue, what the parking officer would do if there were no tickets to write, how much more information the mayor would need and why the mayor was heading the ordinance in the first place, because it is a Safety Committee issue.
"I'm not opposed to parking meters. I'm opposed to parking meters without better information," said Kessler, who began researching parking policy last year along with the police department. Kessler said before moving forward with meters, he wants more information to determine if meters are necessary, where they'll need to be placed and what kind of investment they'll be financially.
"If we have meters or if we don't have meters, we need this position," he added.
Councilwoman Anne Lewis agreed with Kessler, saying, "Revenue comes from the tickets, not the meters."
Bexley Service Director Bill Harvey also agreed that whether or not the city installs parking meters, having an enforcement system is necessary.
"We need to find out what people are doing," he said. "Because if they're parking in our one-hour parking spots for three hours and not getting a ticket or if we do get parking meters and they know they can pay $1 but stay there all day because there is no one enforcing them, what's the point?"
Harvey said that while researching metered parking in other cities, he learned that Columbus has a 92 percent collection rate -- one of the highest in the country -- because those parking in the city know the parking laws will be enforced.
Councilman Richard Sharp suggested installing parking meters in front of City Hall as a trial for more information, as opposed to creating a new position, but Kessler said that at $800 per meter, the trial could be wasteful.
"Without better information, we're rushing into this relatively blind," he said. "There's no good reason not to have a parking officer if the position is self-sustaining."
Kessler said if the ordinance is approved, he'd like to hire someone by May, having the person work 20 flexible hours per week and be paid between $15 and $20 per hour. That person would be notified that if a quota is not met in bringing in enough revenue, the position could be eliminated.
Bexley employed a parking officer until 2011, but Police Chief Larry Rinehart said because the officer was full time, other duties that were assigned along the way made it difficult to enforce traffic laws effectively. He said he is in favor of the part-time parking officer position because police officers don't usually have the time to stop and write tickets and they have no system of keeping track of how long someone has been parked in a spot.
Officers do write tickets when they're able, though, and even with a parking officer on staff, they would continue to do so whenever possible, Rinehart said. In 2012, officers wrote about 700 tickets.
A second reading and further discussion of the parking officer ordinance will take place at the next City Council meeting at 5:45 p.m. April 9.