Parking rates in downtown Fort Smith will double and parking fines will increase following a 4-3 vote by the city's Board of Directors on Tuesday, granted that the ordinance survives two more public readings.
Parking meter rates on Garrison Avenue will double from 25 cents an hour to 50 cents an hour (or 10 cents per 12 minutes; 25 cents per 30 minutes). All other on-street parking meter rates and the Eighth Street parking lot will cost 25 cents per 40 minutes (or 10 cents per 15 minutes; 50 csents per 90 minutes), up from 25 cents per hour. The Second Street parking lot will be free. The fine for not paying for parking will increase from $5 to $10 if paid on or before 6 p.m. of the day following the violation. The fine would be $15 if delivered between two and four days later, $20 if delivered between four and 15 days later or $25 after 15 days.
"The last time that fee was set was 1985 when a quarter probably meant a whole lot more than it does today," City Administrator Carl Geffken said.
The city is projected to have lost about $10,000 on parking in 2017, Geffken wrote in an email. The city lost $6,761 in 2016 and $21,811 in 2015. Geffken said at Tuesday's meeting that the increase is also needed for costs associated with parking, such as maintaining the parking garage.
In December 2017, the board approved $62,742 worth of repairs for the parking garage.
The city plans to replace the 435 meters with new ones that will accept payments via debit/credit cards and a mobile app in addition to coins. They have a price tag of about $217,500 total.
At-large Director and Vice Mayor Kevin Settle suggested the city look into expanding its paid parking hours instead of raising rates. Parking is free nights and weekends.
"Friday nights and Saturdays are really busy, and we're getting nothing out of that. Even with doubling, we're getting nothing out of those busier times," Settle said.
Geffken responded by saying that the main reason why the city has paid parking meters downtown is so people who are coming to shop and eat are the ones parking in the spaces, rather than people who work downtown.
The increases passed 4-3 with Ward 1 Director Keith Lau, Ward 2 Director Andre Good, Ward 3 Director Mike Lorenz and At-large Director Tracy Pennartz in favor and Ward 4 Director George Catsavis, At-large Director Don Hutchings and Settle opposed. The ordinance will have to be read at two more public meetings, where directors may change their votes, for it to be adopted and go into effect.