With a 5-2 vote on May 27, Bexley City Council rejected a proposal to install parking meters in hopes of raising additional revenue. In another vote, it approved a financial incentive program which would take the form of an annual payout that Recreation and Parks Department employees would share.
Council's vote on the meter proposal came after a public hearing in which several merchants and residents expressed concerns about the negative impact meters could have on business and traffic congestion in their neighborhoods. About 25 people attended the hearing.
Prior to the vote, Councilman Mark Masser, who introduced the parking meter proposal, introduced an amendment that, among other things, included a recommendation that 50 percent of the revenue from the meters be allocated to the city's police fund and 50 percent to a "parking development fund."
Masser noted the parking meter proposal was one of the recommendations of the Alternative Revenue Task Force the city convened in 2011 to find additional sources of income.
The amendment to the legislation also would have authorized the mayor to install 50 meters along East Main Street and the Capital University vicinity at a cost of $1,000 each.
The meters were projected to generate $100,000 annually in revenue for the city.
Masser's amendment specified the revenue would be split evenly between a parking development fund the city could use to build a parking structure and Bexley's police fund.
"We hear from councils, 'We don't have money to hire police,' " he said. "That money would go toward that."
Council members rejected the amendment as well as the original legislation with 5-2 votes, with only Masser and Council President Richard Sharp voting "yes" both times.
Before the votes, several business owners and residents voiced concerns that the parking meters could hurt business and cause parking problems on residential streets where drivers might go to avoid the meters.
"This is not something that would be good for the business environment of Bexley," said Greg Margulies of the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce. "We've been working very hard to bring more business in and we feel that this is going to do the opposite.
"We don't want to do anything to discourage people from shopping on Main Street."
Dana Adler, a South Parkview Avenue resident, said the convenience of the free parking on East Main Street is the reason she chooses to patronize local businesses when running errands.
"I appreciate that I can find a quick parking spot on the street," she said. "If I have to find change or a credit card, I'm not going to run those errands in Bexley. I'm going to find somewhere else."
Council members who voted against the parking meters said they took into account residents' and business owners' concerns.
Lori Ann Feibel said she knocked on 75 doors earlier in the day before the public hearing and none of the residents she spoke to expressed strong support for the parking meters.
"I probably asked over 100 people their thoughts. Never did I get a 'Yes, you have to put them in.' Often I got a 'No, you shouldn't,' " Feibel said. "Occasionally, I got a, 'I guess I could live with it.' "
Tim Madison, chairman of council's finance committee, voted voted against the parking meters. He said Bexley's financial conditions have improved since the Alternative Revenue Task Force convened. He said he would have supported the parking meters if they could have been installed as a pilot program as originally proposed, but he could no longer support the plan after a company withdrew its offer to install the meters for a 90-day trial period.
Madison added that before installing meters, he believes the city should wait until the new Giant Eagle store is constructed on the current site of City Hall, 2242 E. Main St., "and we understand what the traffic patterns will be."
In other business, council voted 4-3 on a financial incentive program that would reward Recreation and Parks Department employees based on how much revenue the department generates for the year.
Recreation Director Michael Price said the incentives will serve as an administrative tool to continue to motivate staff in finding innovative ways to increase revenue generated by programming and decrease the amount that the city has to subsidize with the department.
The department's expenses exceeded revenue by $438,000 in 2007. In 2013, the department's expenses over revenue were $96,000, according to the legislation.
Sharp said he voted for the legislation because he believes the Recreation and Parks Department is unique from other city departments because most of the services it provides are optional for residents.
"The Recreation (and Parks) Department, in economic terms, it has high elasticity," Sharp said. "If the Recreation Department is not performing, it will be quickly realized in the numbers."
The payout will be structured as follows:
Employees would share in a $12,500 payout if the department's expenses are $150,000 over revenue for the year; a $13,750 payout for $125,000 in expenses over revenue; a $15,000 payout for $100,000 in expenses over revenue; a $16,250 payout for $75,000 in expenses over revenue; a $17,500 payout for $50,000 in expenses over revenue; and a $25,000 payout for no expenses over revenue.
Recreation supervisors would receive 22.22 percent of the annual payout and the recreation administrative assistant would receive 11.11 percent. The director of the department would not share in the payout.