Featured, Lowcountry Broil|May 31, 2012 1:05 am

Lowcountry Broil: Sounds like parking is still a hot button issue

Orange parking tickets unfriendly for guests
The city has listened and has tried hard and has made positive decisions on downtown parking.  But come on, this weekend is the Gullah Festival, May 26 and 27. People come from all over the region to attend the festivities and bring lots of money, goodwill and fun to our town, as does all of the other festivals.  It is a poor state of mind to see these people getting orange envelopes on their windshield, just an unfriendly way to greet our visitors on a special occasion.  How do you visit this town for an all day and evening event and contend with a two-hour meter? Could not the main day, like usually a Saturday, be free parking? Hey let’s get creative and have weekend free parking. Yes, dollars are lost to the city on the meters but the increase in business to the downtown just might compensate for bigger retail sales and higher business license fees and other taxes. And our guests do not leave pissed.

Imagine the dismay at finding a parking ticket
Imagine my delight when my granddaughter, her husband, my Daughter and great-grandson from North Carolina came for his first visit to Beaufort. One of the first places I thought of was the Waterfront Park playground. It is a great place for little ones.  My sister from Memphis was also visiting with us. Excited, we took off to enjoy a beautiful afternoon, all of which came to an abrupt end upon our return to their vehicle.
Imagine my embarrassment when she had a bright orange ticket on the windshield for parking. I was under the mistaken impression that parking is free on weekends. Add that to the fact no one saw a sign that gave you any indication that you needed to search for a faded number and then search for where to pay.  Of course I paid the ticket which stated on it that no comments were allowed.
Imagine the bad impression this gave to my out-of-town guests. Has Beaufort become so money hungry that the city fails to be hospitable? Would it not have been better to give a warning to a vehicle with an out-of-town plate?

Pity parking for tourists
Working in a retail store in the downtown area has brought to my observation a few issues that still need to be addressed by our city on an old and worn out subject — PARKING!
Pity the poor tourist who has the somewhat misfortune of visiting our town by automobile and needs to utilize the parking meters.
1.  What are the parameters on the parking meters?
• Why isn’t there more visible signage on each meter pole posted with information stating what coinage can be used, how many minutes you get for each amount plus the longest duration you can park at that particular meter?  Right now this information is not located in an easily read location.
• Tourists do not know they don’t have to feed the meters after 6:00 p.m., which holidays are free and that Sundays are free.  This information should also be included on the visible signage.
2.  Where do parking patrons go to get change for the meters and to register complaints about non-functioning meters?
• Could the address for the parking company office be posted as a place to secure change on this pole signage?  Wouldn’t it be feasible for the parking office to be open on weekends plus during festivals and special events with a minimal crew?
• Couldn’t change machines be installed around town so change is not the burden of the retail stores and restaurants in the downtown area?  One could maintain that if a person comes into a store to get change then that person will stay and shop.  Seldom true plus it drains each store of needed change to conduct normal business.  Many extra quarters are purchased at the bank for parking meter purpose but it never is enough when there is a large festival for a long holiday weekend and the banks are not open during this time and neither is the parking company office.
On another issue:  We need signs posted as to where the public restrooms are located in the area.  This is an old town with many old buildings with old plumbing.  It should not be the responsibility especially of stores to provide public bathrooms and it should not be the responsibility of store employees to clean up after the heavy volume of requests for a restroom.  Restrooms become filthy and toilets clogged and overflowing to the point that our restrooms become unusable to our employees or need major cleaning before employees can utilize the facility.  We discourage the use of our bathroom for these reasons plus employees resent having to clean up the mess.  If signs were posted with public restroom locations it would diminish the number of requests placed on businesses.  I’ve seen signage like this in other towns and it certainly would also help the tourists.

Finding fault with fee
Hey, city council members, if you are considering making me pay a “fee” of $35 per vehicle, at least have the cojones to call it a tax. We already pay a tax when we purchase our vehicles and then we pay a yearly personal property tax for the privilege of owning a vehicle. I know state law allows municipalities to charge “fees” for certain things.  I guess I always thought of a fee as an elective thing that I could choose whether I wanted that service or not. If our governmental agencies would leave more of our money in our pockets perhaps we could jump-start this economy.

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