Parking meters are making their way back to Patchogue Village.
More than a decade after they were removed, the Village Board is set to seek out bids to install a metered parking system for about 370 parking spots on Main Street, S. Ocean Avenue and the Church Street lot.
The plan is to install 18 so-called muni-meters in those areas and visitors to the Village will need to note their parking spot number before feeding the meter, officials said. Village residents with a valid resident sticker will continue to park for free.
“The revenue will allow us to expand our lots,” Mayor Paul Pontieri said at Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting. “It will give us funds that we need to purchase properties and to create more parking because we are tight. Let those funds come from people other than the residents.”
Revenue from the meters and the associated fines for those 370 spots is estimated at $500,000 a year, according to Gerry Giosa, of Level G Parking Consultants.
Giosa, in a presentation to the board Tuesday, said that the Village currently has “an abundance” of free parking, more than 2,000 spots in the central business district (350 on the street and 1,700 in lots).
“That’s fantastic, but free parking is not free,” said Giosa, speaking of the costs of maintaining the parking areas, from putting up lights to snow removal.
Giosa cited several other Long Island downtowns, including Babylon, Northport, Rockville Centre and Port Jefferson, that currently offer metered parking.
“They have seen that charging for parking is a way to get something back, to offset the additional expense associated with these visitors,” he said.
Rates for the meters have been discussed with a range of 50-75 cents an hour during the business day, with a possible flat fee for visitors at night.
“If someone is going to dinner or a show, put $5 in the meter and stay there until 5 a.m. the next morning,” said Pontieri, adding that the Village will sit down with other municipalities, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Improvement District, to come up with the finalized fee structure.
Each muni-meter costs $10,000-$12,000 so the Village would need to make an initial investment of about $200,000 to get the system in place, Giosa said. Once installed, the cost to the Village is $40 a month per meter for software and processing fees. With 18 meters, that works out to $8,640 a year.
The meters themselves–which would be installed from West Avenue to Maple Avenue on Main Street and Main Street to Terry Street on S. Ocean Avenue–would generate an estimated $300,000 a year for the Village, with another $200,000 or so in fines, Giosa said. The total revenues could be as high as $700,000 a year, Giosa said.
Pontieri said he'd like to set up a parking commission with those revenues being held separate from the General Fund so that they can be used specifically for improving the business district, namely with regard to parking.
"Keep that money within that downtown," the mayor said.
The handful of residents who spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting spoke in favor of the meters, but business owners in the Village have expressed reservations during discussions on the topic.
Lori Belmonte, owner of The Colony Shop on Main Street, posted on the Patchogue Patch Facebook page Tuesday night that she believed parking should remain free and that the Village needs to build tiered parking lots, a topic that has been discussed in recent years.
“I feel if people are coming to our Village to shop, dine or go to the theater, why should they be penalized?” Belmonte wrote.
In Port Jefferson, where meters were put in place about five years ago, business owners and employees have continually criticized the parking policy.
"It hinders our customers," Donny Stanley, a clerk at Greentique gift shop in Port Jefferson told Port Jefferson Patch earlier this year. "They complain about it all the time. Even if you want to pop into a store for five minutes you have to pay."
Parking meters were in place on Main Street in Patchogue Village for five decades until the late 90s when Village officials decided to remove them because they felt people would be more inclined to shop in the Village if there was free parking, Krieger told Patch after Tuesday’s meeting.
But Krieger said that with the Village “on the upswing," it makes sense to collect some revenue from out-of-town visitors to provide for the upkeep of current parking areas and invest in new ones.
“We are confident that this will happen,” said Krieger, who said his personal goal is to have the meters in place next spring. “We don’t have a parking problem. We have a walking problem.”
If metered parking in the Church Street lot becomes successful, the board will look at expanding the system to other areas, but at least for the near future, free parking will certainly still exist in the Village, Krieger said.
"I think one of the misconceptions here is that we are charging people to park in the Village of Patchogue," he said. "There will be 1,700 free parking spaces in the Village so if you really don't want to pay for parking, you park behind Terry Street or you park behind Oak Street and then you walk to where you have to go."