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County Executive Charles I. Ecker is being forced to renege on a campaign promise and begin charging for parking spaces in front of the county office building.

To be fair, "renege" was not Ecker's choiceof words. During the campaign, he promised to eliminate the parking meters in front of the county office building. He never promised to stop using them forever.

Monday, the hoods that covered the meters for the past year were removed. It now costs 25 cents an hour to park close to the building.

"I gave it a good try," Ecker said. "It was a good idea that didn't work."

During the campaign, Ecker saw the meters as a sign thatgovernment was aloof, protected and inaccessible. Now he wants them back to show that it's not.

"Better to have someone pay a quarter to park an hour than have them spend a lot of time hunting for a space far from the building," Ecker said.

The reason for the return ofthe meters, Ecker said, is that too many people -- county employees or outsiders -- were parking longer than two hours in the spaces in front of the county building.

As a result, many people doing business with the county had to park in a lot down a steep hill in back of the county building -- a long walk any time, but especially on cold, winter days.

Initially, Ecker tried to have police cadets monitor the parking spaces and ticket cheaters, but "the juice just wasn't worth the squeezing," Ecker said. The idea proved too difficult and tooexpensive to enforce.

Ecker said the move is not a thinly veiled attempt to shore up the county's flagging revenues. In the year before he covered up the meters, the meters produced $5,628 -- $469 a month.

Assuming people will park at the same metered pace now as they did two years ago, the county would raise only $2,345 between now andJune 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The county deficit is $14.5 million.

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