Nelson council adopts seniors parking pass cost increase
Nelson city council made a final decision at its Monday meeting to increase the cost of a seniors parking pass.
The cost will increase from $30 per year (amounting to $2.50 per month) to $90 per year (or $7.50 per month).
After voting to adopt the new parking pass fee, council passed a new motion that management staff would meet with the Seniors Co-ordinating Society and its transportation co-ordinator to find ways of offering assistance to those seniors who are in financial need.
Mayor Deb Kozak said the parking pass is a permit, not a tax, because there is no requirement to buy one.
The rationale for the increase, stated at previous council meetings, is that money from the parking passes, along with parking meter revenue, goes toward street maintenance in Nelson, and that the city has been underfunding the paving budget for the past few years, leading to its current deficit of about $400,000.
Parking meter fees are also likely to increase to help cover this gap.
The seniors parking pass increase would bring in about $39,000 in new money to the city, based on 650 passes.
Councillor Valerie Warmington said seniors paid $1.67 per month for 10 years until council raised it by 10 dollars last year.
“This is about updating an outdated policy and updating our fee structure to reflect the current financial circumstances of the city,” she said. “It still represents an amazingly good deal for seniors who park enough to make it worthwhile, and those who don’t park enough can opt out of it.
“For me, knowing how many seniors are parked downtown at any given time is not relevant information.”
Councillor Janice Morrison said she thinks $90 is a fair price. Councillor Michael Dailly agreed.
“I see this increase in the fee as a correction,” Dailly said, “and it is still a good deal. Seniors are getting half the price o feveryone else in Nelson.”
“This does not reflect that seniors are not important to us,” Dailly added, “but we need to do something so we don’t have a flood of passes — we have gone from 350 to 650 (in the past few years). Are we going to eventually have 1,200 passes? So we have to do something unpopular, and I am OK with that because it is a correction to the program.”
Councillors Bob Adams and Robin Cherbo fought the increase.
Adams introduced a motion that final adoption of the increase be postponed for a year so council could consult with seniors and find out how many of them used the pass and how often. He proposed that bylaw officers use a clicker as they walk the streets to document each time they see a car with a senior parking pass downtown.
Cherbo agreed and said, “We have not had a proper survey how they use it. We could have a public meeting on the issue because $7.50 can be considerable if you are on a fixed income. We need consultation and data, about where and when.”
Councillor Anna Purcell and financial officer Colin McClure said bylaw officers counting cars would not give a clear picture of how many people use it, or how often, because bylaw officers can not be everywhere at all times.
Cherbo said an increase to $90 is extreme if a senior only uses the pass twice a month. Mayor Deb Kozak responded that if they only use it twice a month it would not be worth it for them to buy the pass in the first place, even at the previous cost of$30.
Adams said seniors will end up going to the mall instead.
There was some discussion about whether seniors have less money than anyone else, and Kozak said that although some seniors live on fixed incomes, others have more money than many young people.
Adams’s motion to postpone adopting the increase was defeated, with all councillors other than Adams and Cherbo voting against it. Council then voted to adopt the increase, with Adams and Cherbo opposed.
“Lack of consultation is the main reason I am opposing this,” Cherbo said. “We could have gone to seniors meetings, and we have no idea how much they are used.”
Before the parking pass debate, in the public participation section of the meeting, Nelson senior resident Carol Howard presented a petition with 173 names opposing the increase, which she said she had collected in only two days.
“I have never seen so many upset people at the Seniors Centre,” she told council.
“I hope council will correct this wrong.”