We are just returning from a three week vacation in Costa Rica, although I have kept in touch online, I will have to get up to speed on the status of our current budget discussions.
With the Canadian government set to change our coins to be made out of steel, this will result in a lighter weight per coin. This change will result in having to recalibrating all vending machines and of course our city parking meters. Along with the parking meters there are discussions about the amenity areas and street side patios along Baker Street.
I was opposed to the doubling of parking meter rates last year, which has resulted in a lower than estimated return of revenues for the city. While some people are unhappy with the increase in rates, the revenue is used to cover most of the cost of paving projects to upgrade our streets and roads. As with all projects covered in the city budget, it is always work to come up with enough funds to cover the costs, including inflation, for all of the current City services.
So if all parking meters have to be recalibrated to accept the new coin money, this will be a cost that has to be added into the current budget projections. This will be an interesting problem if there are old coins and new coins still in circulation at the same time. Some other cities have used electronic parking meters which accept credit cards, debit cards and currency to pay for parking on the streets. This would seem to cover some of the problems with the current parking meters, but I have heard that the electronic meters do not work well in winter conditions.
As the parking meter fares have increased so will the cost of the use of parking areas for street side patios, parking spaces etc. This will be adjusted as the rent agreements come up for renewal. There has been an ongoing examination on use of patios and the amenity areas on Baker Street. I believe we need to be vigilant in keeping Nelson downtown core heritage theme and having the amenity areas as resting places, making them non-smoking, similar to the bus stops.
Some citizens have questioned why we have parking meters for revenue, when some other cities do not. Budgets are somewhat complicated, but as most people know, Trail gets taxes from Tech Cominco, Castlegar gets taxes from Celgar and Grand Forks received revenue from the old ore slag piles to cover the expenses of some of their city services.
Nelson has narrow streets and sidewalks, so spaces for parking, amenity areas and patios is at a premium. Some businesses are concerned about the amount of parking in the downtown core and the cost of parking meters. As with taxes, I am sure that the fee charged for parking will not go back down to previous levels, but it does assist, as I mentioned, in covering most of the cost of the city street paving program. Sometimes the only answer is compromise in order to have solutions that work for everyone.