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Smart Parking Meter Program Moves Forward in Charleston, W.Va.

People who park in downtown Charleston and in the city’s garages will be able to pay with a smartphone app within the next couple of months, after city council approved the purchase of new smart meters for the area.

Charleston City Council on Monday night approved the city’s $328,364 purchase of 380 smart meters from Duncan Parking Technologies. The price includes wireless communication, software license fees, sensors and other equipment needed to implement the meters.

Mary Dickerson, the city’s director of traffic, parking, and transportation, said officials hope to have the meters installed within the next couple of months, but will work around upcoming special events like Live on the Levee and FestivALL

Once the meters are installed, people can use the ParkMobile smartphone app to pay for parking. The app can already be used at parking meters with fluorescent green stickers around town.

Earlier this year, city council approved raising the parking meter fees in the downtown area and lowering it in other areas in an effort to relieve parking congestion in the downtown business district. The new rates for the downtown area will be in effect when the smart meters are installed, Dickerson has said.

The rate will be $1 for the first hour, $1.50 for the second hour and an additional $1.50 for the third hour with a three-hour maximum time for the following locations: 100 and 200 block of Hale Street, unit block of Dunbar Street, 200 block of Leon Sullivan Way, unit block to 400 block of Capitol Street, unit block to 300 block of Summers Street, unit block to 300 block of Laidley Street, 800 block of Kanawha Boulevard, 1000 block of Virginia Street East, and 500 to 1000 block of Quarrier Street.

Dickerson said 241 of the meters will go in the downtown areas including Summers, Capitol and Hale streets. Twenty to 30 smart meters will go in the lower levels of the parking garages to be used by daily parkers, she said.

The gates on the parking garages will be removed and the workloads for cashiers in the booths will be reprioritized, City Manager David Molgaard told the Finance Committee.

The city has kept some of the cashier positions open through attrition, he said.

Molgaard said officials would be bringing to council, within the next couple of meetings, a revised payment structure for the garages.

In other business, Mayor Danny Jones asked those present at the Finance Committee to read Senate Bill 244, which Gov. Jim Justice recently signed into law.

City officials say the bill will allow guns in school buildings and the city’s recreation centers. Jones had previously said if the bill passed, he may have to disallow school groups from hosting programs at the city’s rec centers or even close the centers altogether. Jones said Monday he hopes it won’t come to that.

Last year, a judge sided with the city and ruled that when city recreation centers are leased by schools they are school facilities, and firearms can’t be carried there. The West Virginia Citizens Defense League had sued the city over its gun restrictions in recreation centers.

Jones said the city can’t sue the state over the bill. The issue likely won’t come before a judge unless a protected class, such as an African American child who goes to the city’s recreation centers, files a lawsuit, he said.

“I’m telling you, it would take a protected class of people to file a lawsuit to stop this bill, and there is such a protected class,” Jones said. “... there are protected classes, if you study the law, civil rights law you know there are people who would be disproportionately affected by this bill.”

©2018 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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