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Westminster pondering app-based parking meter upgrade

A parking meter displays the remaining minutes in downtown Westminster.
A parking meter displays the remaining minutes in downtown Westminster. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Westminster’s city officials are weighing the benefits of upgrading to app-connected parking meters to increase convenience.

Council members and the mayor discussed the idea at their Monday, Feb. 24. meeting.

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The idea is not to make more money for the city, Mayor Joe Dominick said. The main benefit is to keep people from taking up spaces downtown for an extended period of time, not leaving spaces for people to park when they want to shop, eat and use services downtown.

Councilman Kevin Dayhoff said the current meters were installed in 2001 or 2002 and he would like to see the city upgrade to app-connected meters.

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“It would free up street personnel from collecting money out of the meters," Dayhoff said. "It’s very convenient. ... I think it would tie with economic development extremely well."

Dominick, said he has thought it is something Westminster should have been doing for years, “being a city that’s trying to be known for technology.”

But many cities enforce meters by attaching license place readers to law enforcement vehicles. This was previously against Westminster city code, but the council approved a change in the past few months.

Dominick said he believes the reason most people skip paying for meters is because less and less people carry change with them. Giving downtown visitors the option to pay electronically would serve them better.

“We should make it easy and simple for people to follow laws and policies and rules,” he said.

Council president Gregory Pecoraro said that the Economic Development Committee agreed to start looking at options and asked City Administrator Barbara Matthews to begin researching what it would take to upgrade meters to those that use wireless technologies for payments and monitoring.

The City of Westminster maintains 512 parking meters as of Jan. 10.

The parking enforcement officer is a member of the Westminster Police Department and is tasked with enforcement. Public Works personnel currently collect the money from the meters.

Dayhoff said that from discussions with police officers, he believes there are public safety benefits to electronic parking meter monitoring. Being able to identify vehicles that have been parked in one location for an extended number of days has helped uncover other public safety issues, he said.

Some parking located within the city limits is already app-connected, but those spaces are on privately owned property and the meters are not owned by the city.

Economic Development, Planning, Public Works and Public Safety committees will all have a hand in the process if the city moves forward, Dominick said.

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