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THE PROBLEM:: "Easy Park" machines in Fells Point have been vandalized, making their hours of operation a mystery.

THE BACK STORY:: Watchdog seeks enlightenment.

Why would anyone want to tamper with the hours-in-effect stickers on the parking machines on South Broadway in Fells Point? What purpose does this serve, other than to confuse the public and drain people's wallets?

On several occasions, Watchdog has spotted machines on South Broadway near Pratt Street and at Aliceanna Street that have their hours-of-operation stickers either gouged out, scraped off or simply colored in with a black marker.

The machines accept your money at all hours, whether or not the payment rules are in effect (though they will deny parking passes during certain hours if there is a tow-away zone in effect). As a result, some drivers might have written off the vandalism as a government ploy to get motorists to pay unnecessarily for parking and thus increase city revenue.

Not so, says Tiffany James, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Parking Authority, which maintains the machines. Parking is a resource, she said, and meters in commercial areas ensure spaces for customers and frequent turnover for businesses. Parking Authority staff members frequently inspect the machines, she said, and address such vandalism.

Parking officials are considering adding the hours of operation to the "Pay Here" signs that call attention to the meters, as well as to the machines' electronic display.

James urges anyone who spots a problem with graffiti or other vandalism to the machines to call 311.

If a machine runs out of paper, "we'll get a message," James said. Unfortunately, there are no alerts if the sticker is damaged.

WHO CAN FIX THIS:: Candace Lee, meter manager, Baltimore Parking Authority, 443-573-2831. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

Need help?

Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing or calling 410-332-6735.

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