Parking Proposal Irks Business Leaders, Residents

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SCRANTON -- City council is scheduled to make a final vote Thursday night on an ordinance that would increase prices for city parking meters and add hours when they are checked.

But, a group of business owners is expected to make a last ditch appeal to council members tonight.

City council will start its meeting at city hall Thursday night and expected to join them are at least a dozen downtown business owners and residents who plan to ask council to postpone the vote on the controversial parking meter changes.

Many of those business owners met Thursday morning and aired their many grievances about the changes that could come to downtown parking.

Only hours before Scranton city council was scheduled to cast its final votes, some of the Electric City's most prominent business owners and downtown residents gathered to air their grievances over a city council plan that's raised a big stink out on the street.

The plan is to raise prices and extend hours for parking meters in downtown Scranton, something many merchants think will drive business away.

No council members attended the meeting, but those who did bounced ideas and complaints off Scranton's newly-hired private parking company. They explained that the price hike would pay for them and hopefully offset property taxes.

"I think the communication with the city has broken down with the merchants. I truly believe that they should have come to us and said 'listen, this is what we’re proposing to do; we're in desperate need of money.' We're business people. We're here to make the city better,” said Bob Dickert of Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood.

Here's what the city council ordinance would change: parking meter prices would go up by 50 cents an hour and meters would be checked on evenings and on Saturdays.

Many of the business owners we talked to said they understand the tight financial spot the city is in, but they feel like they weren't let in on the plan. And if city council votes on the plan Thursday night, their time to protest is running out.

"They're sitting at a table and their making knee jerk decisions, and it affects my livelihood and my business. I love being in downtown Scranton. I want to see more businesses in downtown Scranton,” said Julie MacDowell   of Northern Light Espresso Bar.

MacDowell, who owns Northern Light Espresso Bar on Spruce Street says in the time that she's had, she's circulated a petition to other merchants and customers who oppose the parking meter plan. She'll bring this and a few of her business minded friends to council's meeting.

“We are all for anything that will help the city increase revenue, but not at the cost of my business and my customers."

Business owners we spoke to say they plan to ask council to hold off on voting on the parking meter ordinance and try to come up with other ideas. One that was thrown around earlier: lowering prices in parking garages to influence people to park there.