Parking system in drive

Potsdam officials selected the stretch of Market Street between Main and Elm streets downtown to implement a 90-day pilot program for a single-unit parking kiosk next year. The meters in use now will either be covered or removed during the trial period. W.T. Eckert/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — Parking in downtown may take on a new dynamic if an upcoming parking kiosk trial run meets with village approval.

A 90-day trial of a solar-powered, battery-backup, pay meter is expected to begin some time in the first part of October, Village Administrator Gregory O. Thompson said.

The company supplying the meter, San Diego-based IPS Group, has the Smart Parking Program parking kiosks in places like Lake Placid, and has recently been contracted to supply the city of Plattsburgh with the units, Mr. Thompson said.

The decision to look at a new meter model was part of a long-time discussion of how to improve downtown by village board members, Mr. Thompson said.

In conjunction with the trial comes a potential trial run of license plate readers from Vigilant Solutions, a company that is working with the village and IPS Group in the rollout, Mr. Thompson said.

“And what that will do is as the patrol car makes its way down through the village street, if a car’s time has expired, the license reader will pick up which cars are ticketable and let the officer know, thus saving us more money instead of having the officer walking the foot beat,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to this trial and seeing it through and making it happen.”

Reasons to rid downtown of the current parking meters include their “unsightly” nature and the difficulty they present when trying to clear sidewalks of snow by the village Department of Public Works, Mr. Thompson said.

“I really think it would be a real step forward for the village to be able to get rid of the parking meters and just go to the kiosk style,” Mr. Thompson said. “We’re only allowed one kiosk for the trial, so it looks like we’re going to do one side of Market Street, the stretch in front of Sergi’s between Elm Street to Main Street.”

The other meters on that stretch of road will either be covered or the meter heads will be removed. There will be ample signs to notify people of the trial and new meter payment method as well as a media campaign alerting the public, Mr. Thompson said.

Rates will remain the same as they are now, and drivers will have the option to pay by card or coin during the trial period. An option to pay with bills will follow and customers will be provided a receipt from the parking kiosk that they would place on their dashboard.

While it will come at a cost to the village, it’s not yet determined what that cost will be, Mr. Thompson said. Following the trial there will be a follow up study to determine how many of the kiosks they would need and where they would be located.

“It will be an investment, we know that,” Mr. Thompson said. “However, when you look at the time it will save the gentleman we have who works on the meters now . . . it will save the village a ton of money there.

“I’m looking forward to trying this. I’m really hoping we can make this work,” Mr. Thompson said. “I really think it will make downtown Potsdam much more appealing, much more consumer friendly.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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