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New Test Meters

Parking meters in the 200 block of Main Street are shown on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, shortly after their installation.

RACINE — After a two-hour discussion about parking meters Tuesday evening, the City Council decided to wait for the completion of a parking studying before taking any action.

The City Council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole, met to discuss a proposal by 5th District Alderman Steve Smetana to remove all parking meters within the city. Smetana first submitted the proposal in November 2017, stating that he thought the move would make the city more welcoming.

The last time the issue was on a council agenda was in July.

Before the committee discussion, seven people, mostly Downtown residents and property or business owners, spoke during a public hearing on the matter.

The feedback was fairly evenly split between people who wanted meters to prevent residents and employees from monopolizing spaces intended for customers, and people who thought that removing the meters would draw more people Downtown.

Smetana clarified that removing the meters would not remove parking restrictions and said he recommended finding another system to limit parking times.

City Administrator Jim Palenick gave a brief overview on parking meters.

Most, 964 of the 1,656 meters in the city, are located along Downtown streets.

Palenick reported the meters bring in a modest profit — $53,659 in 2017, $41,030 in 2018 — but said that is not their purpose.

“The meters are a device to allocate supply (of parking spaces),” said Palenick. “If there’s a better way to do those things, we’d like to do that.”

‘Disappointing and embarrassing’

The first motion the council voted on was to temporarily bag parking meters for six months on Sixth Street and Main Street and implement a three-hour parking limit in place of meters.

Some aldermen said they wanted to wait until the parking study is complete before taking action.

Alderman Sandy Weidner said she was concerned about kicking the can.

“Over the last 19 years, a dozen times or more this issue has raised its head, and it’s never really gone anywhere,” she said. “The council has a bad habit of wanting to do nothing.”

That motion to bag the meters for six months failed 7-4, with aldermen Smetana, Weidner, Carrie Glenn and Henry Perez voting in favor.

The second motion, to remove parking meters at the Racine Public library, went through a series of amendments about whether to include Lake Avenue meters and whether to remove or bag meters.

As one hour got closer to two, 8th District Alderman Q.A. Shakoor II voiced his frustration.

“We’re shooting like a shotgun,” he said. “This is disappointing and embarrassing.”

Parking study planned

The city’s 2019 Capital Improvement budget includes $150,000 for a Downtown traffic and parking study.

Downtown Racine Corp. Executive Director Kelly Kruse also refers to it as a parking and “traffic calming” study.

“In light of the upcoming traffic calming and parking studies already planned for Downtown in 2019, the Downtown Racine Corporation encourages the Common Council to wait for those results before making a decision about the parking meters,” Kruse said earlier Tuesday.

Kruse told the Journal Times last month that the plan is to have finalized recommendations from the traffic study by the end of September so that findings and cost estimates could be incorporated into the 2020 city budget.

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Christina Lieffring covers the Burlington area and the Village of Caledonia. Before moving to Racine, she lived in Nebraska, Beijing, Chicago and grew up in Kansas City.

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