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Monessen parking meters stay for now

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 12:32 a.m.

Despite seeming support from downtown businesses, Monessen City Council opted not to consider elimination of parking meters.

Council discussed the issue at length at its work session Monday after Mayor Mary Jo Smith said several groups and organizations have asked the city to consider the change.

She said city Treasurer Gerald Saksun indicated that the city places a moratorium on parking meter fees in December and suggested it begin the process of removing all meters.

Shire said a plan to eliminate parking meters would require a vote of council, although the mayor could administratively set a schedule for the removal of meters if approved.

She asked council members for opinions on the issue.

Councilman Josh Retos said the city would lose revenue from meters, parking permits and tickets if meters are removed. He said that without meters, some people would park vehicles downtown and leave them there all day, taking away parking from business customers.

“Meters are not just a means for collecting money, but a way of policing parking,” Retos said.

Councilwoman Lucille D'Alfonso suggested a trial period without meters. But Retos said once the meters are removed, it would be cost prohibitive to return them.

“I agree with you Josh, but the people want it,” Smith said.

City Administrator John Harhai said it costs the city $58 on average for each meter that requires repair.

“Why not leave it as it is?” Councilman Bill Manus said.

“Because I'm not sure that's what the people want,” Smith said.

D'Alfonso suggested a temporary moratorium on collecting parking fees.

Ron Mocur, who owns Crystalline Technologies, said he surveyed downtown business owners and they overwhelmingly indicated that parking meters are the greatest hindrance to business.

However, business owner Buzzy Byron said he was never surveyed.

“I'm for meters in front of my store,” Byron said. “They keep people from parking in front of my store all day, tying up a space that could be used by a customer.”

“I respect surveys, but I don't think they understand the ramifications of this,” Retos said of business owners.

Council agreed to leave the matter off the agenda for its Wednesday business meeting.

Meanwhile, council agreed to advertise for a part-time code enforcement and zoning officer. Current officer Richard DiMascio is resigning Sept. 27.

Smith told Retos to oversee hiring for the position, which is in his department.

Smith asked Shire if Retos could hire a replacement or if such an action would require a council vote. Shire said Retos could make the choice, subject to a council vote at the October meeting – if the new employee is only going through training.

Council opted instead to conduct a special meeting to fill the position.

In other news, council:

• Announced it will withdraw a bill to place a referendum on the ballot outlawing bottle clubs, because it learned voters approved such a referendum in 1996.

• Announced it would discontinue a lawsuit against the Mon Valley Sewage Authority. The authority will be permitted to build an overflow tank on property behind the city building.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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