Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Pay by parking app approved

Failure to adopt amendment could have kept Cheney from collecting revenues near EWU

 

Last updated 10/15/2019 at 11:39am



CHENEY – City Council members took a second shot at amending a parking ordinance that would allow using electronic means to pay for parking on the streets around Eastern Washington University.

The original amendment came at the Sept. 24 meeting and failed, with the four council members in attendance deadlocked 2-2 and no way to break the tie. At the Oct. 8 meeting, all seven members were present, with the vote being 5-2 - council members Dan Hilton and John Taves voting no.

In bringing the amendment to the council at the Sept. 24 meeting, City Administrator Mark Schuller said the current ordinance only allows for collecting revenues from mechanical meters, and without its passage the city would be open to having any meter violations taking place at street locations around EWU contested in court.

Under a 2002 agreement between the two parties, EWU is responsible for installing and maintaining meters on city streets around campus along with collecting the revenues. The city is responsible for determining the number of meter stalls and locations as well as recovering fines and collection fees. The revenues are divided 60-40, with EWU getting the larger amount.

Early this summer, the university removed all of the mechanical meters in favor of signs that instruct users how to pay for the space either with a phone app or by calling a number and paying with a credit card. The city has asked Eastern to remove some of these signs and replace them with traditional mechanical meters.

But most of the stalls - located on Washington, Elm, 5th and 7th streets - can only be reserved through electronic payment. The amendment allows for payment by "electronic application" which is defined as "paying for on-street and off-street parking from a mobile device."

City attorney Stanley Schwartz said the city codes follow the Washington Municipal Traffic Codes as they are defined in the Washington Administrative Codes (WAC). Electronic parking is not even included in the WACs, he added.

"Eastern Washington University jumped the gun," he said of the new parking setup. "We're trying to catch up with what's happening."

But council members were not convinced and expressed a number of concerns.

Councilman Dan Hilton said he had a "big problem" with the situation, noting many people don't have the ability to pay for parking electronically.

"I can't support this until people can pay by other forms," he said.

Schuller said the city makes about $40,000 a year off parking fees, and another $25,000 in fines. Not adopting the ordinance could lead to a revenue hit.

Councilman John Taves said he would like to see a different solution negotiated between the two parties before an ordinance amendment was passed. Schuller said they would reach out to EWU to see what could be done, but added in the meantime revenue would likely be lost and there would be no guarantees that the university would be willing to negotiate a new arrangement.

"If we come in heavy handed, Eastern could say, 'if you want to take care of parking on the streets, go ahead,'" Schuller said.

At the Oct. 8 meeting, Hilton and Taves continued to express reservations. Taves added that the current EWU parking app requires motorists to pay for a minimum of one hour of parking, even if only needing half an hour to run into the university bookstore.

"That bothers me," Taves said.

Mayor Chris Grover said the amendment only updates city codes so that they can accept revenue from electronic parking methods. Councilwoman Teresa Overhauser, who was joined by Councilman Vince Barthels, reiterated that the amendment doesn't exclude traditional means of paying for parking, and simply added electronic methods.

As for complaints about the new system at EWU, Schuller said a meeting with university officials was scheduled for Oct. 9 where everything would be discussed about the new system and the future of parking on city streets around campus.

"They're our streets," Overhauser said.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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