After hearing about City Hall receiving numerous phone calls from residents regarding broken parking meters, the Union City Parking Authority has embarked on a four-year capital improvement plan to upgrade all 2,000 of the city's meters.
When the program is completed, modern electronic models will have replaced the old mechanical meters.
These new meters will digitally display the amount of time left on the meter, rather than showing a moving arrow to denote the length of time.
Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who requested the change, said that residents were complaining that meters weren't allocating the proper time for money inserted, resulting in unfair tickets. Other meters weren't working.
Stack said that he has received many letters including photocopies of a ticket. "If this many residents are taking the time to photocopy tickets and write the letters, they are not lying," said Stack over the phone last week.
In cases where the meter was at fault, the Parking Authority has checked out complaints and arranged with the municipal court to abate the ticket.
The Parking Authority installed the first 312 new electronic meters this month, costing $106,704. According to Parking Authority Executive Director James Madonna, these new parking meters were installed along the entire length of Summit Avenue and in the municipal parking lot on 44th Street. In addition, about 93 mechanical meters were installed on the city's side streets.
The agency is preparing to bid out a contract for another 400 meters for the second year of its capital improvement plan. Those meters will probably be installed in the early part of next year.
According to Madonna, the Authority has also been the victim of a large amount of vandalism. He said in many cases, meter collectors found up to 30 foreign coins and aluminum can lid openers in a single meter. These attempts at "beating" the meter fee have contributed to meter malfunctioning.
"Along with the normal wear and tear of the mechanical meters, there were some people who would try to find a way to break the meter if they got a ticket," said Madonna. "The new electronic meters will help solve the problem because foreign coins and can top openers just fall to the bottom of the meter collection cartridge."
According to Anthony Amabile of Meadowlands Associates, the Public Relations firm for the Parking Authority, many of the old meters would register foreign coins.
Parking Authority Chairman Rolando Cribeiro, on behalf of the UCPA commissioners, thanked Stack for working with them to attack the problem.
While many people have been writing in with their complaints, others have complained that the Parking Authority office, located at 2701 New York Ave., is not open enough hours to accommodate the residents.
Madonna said that the office hours have now been extended to include a half-day on Saturday. The office will be open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.
"Some of our residents said that they couldn't get here during the day," said Madonna, explaining that many residents had to visit the office during their workday. "We are trying to accommodate those people."
"We are working hard to solve the parking problems and to provide the type of service to which the residents of Union City are entitled," added Madonna. "The addition of Saturday hours is a good step in that direction."
May increase length of time
Stack, along with the Board of Commissioners, is also trying to encourage shoppers and other residents to utilize the city's municipal parking lots.
At the board's Oct. 16 Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners voted to authorize a feasibility study on increasing the length of time on the meters in the municipal lots.
Stack said that he wants to increase the time to one hour per quarter. Now the meters only provide 30 minutes per quarter.
"You get the same amount of time on the street as you do in the municipal lots," said Stack, adding that the city's municipal lots are usually only 50 to 80 percent full on weekends. "There is no incentive for people to park in the meters."
However, the board only authorized the Parking Authority to perform a study. They have not changed the length of time on any meters yet. The study will then go to the Park Authority board, where the final decision will be made.