Just two months after the Union City Parking Authority installed 312 new electronic parking meters throughout the city, 350 new and old parking meters were vandalized using drills, glue and other tools. The Parking Authority along with Union City Mayor Brian Stack is offering a $2,500 award to anyone who has information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the vandalism.
"We want to give the public an incentive to keep an eye out," said Stack. "When it happens to public property everyone pays for it."
Of the 350 meters vandalized, 300 were new. They were valued at more than $100,000. The new electronic meters were installed in September as part of a four-year capital improvement plan to replace all the city's old mechanical meters. "Union City is going to send out a strong message that lawlessness is not going to be tolerated," said Stack. "We firmly believe that we will be getting additional leads to assist our current investigation, and we will protect the anonymity of anyone who comes forward."
Lt. Joseph Blaettler is in charge of the investigations. Anyone with any information is requested to call Bleattler at (201) 348-5754 or Parking Authority Executive Director James Madonna at (201) 348-5836.
Not just a random act
The number of meters that were damaged as well as the kinds of tools used to damage the meters led the authority to believe that this was not just a random act.
"This vandalism happened from one end of Union City to the other," said Madonna, adding that the meters along Bergenline Avenue that were vandalized ran from 49th Street to 19th Street. "They even used drills as well as various substances such as glue to destroy the mechanisms in the meter."
According to Madonna, six of the new electronic meters had holes drilled into them with drills.
"Somebody drilled through the housing of the meter and into the mechanism," said Madonna. "Those we will have to replace. There is no doubt about that."
Other meters had glue and other paraphernalia jammed into the coin slots. Parking Authority technicians are still working to assess the damage made to the other meters. According to Tony Amabile of Meadowlands Associates, a public relations contractor that works for the Authority, the city still does not know how many need to be replaced and how many can be fixed.
"Kids might be walking through a lot somewhere and break one or two of them [the meters]," Amabile said. "But not 350. That is what shows there is a lot of premeditation there."
According to Madonna the authority is already in the process of fixing some of the meters. Madonna said that the older meters, or the mechanical meters, are being fixed by taking out parts from the old meters that were replaced and using them in the meters that were vandalized.
Right on time
Although the Parking Authority will take a great financial blow after repairing the damaged meters, Madonna said that this vandalism will not delay the Authority's plan to replace the city's meters.
The new electronic meters installed during the first phase of the plan in September digitally display the amount of time left on the meter, rather than showing a moving arrow to denote the length of time.
Stack said that residents were complaining that the old mechanical meters weren't allocating the proper time for money inserted, resulting in unfair tickets.
Madonna said that these new parking meters were installed along the entire length of Summit Avenue and in the municipal lot on 44th Street. In addition, about 93 electronic 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.
Bids for the next installment were received at the Authority's meeting on Dec. 12.