By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

Start saving your quarters.

Parking meters may soon return to some of Buckhead’s main shopping streets—such as East Andrews Drive—along with strict enforcement of parking violations, including fines and “booting” and towing of cars.

Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said new meters were scheduled to be installed in her district and on some streets in City Councilman Howard Shook’s district in Buckhead. Adrean said she learned “two or three days before” that the parking meter company was going to have meters installed along East Andrews Drive.

“That whole West Village is really challenged because there is not enough parking for customers and the hourly people who work there,” Adrean said. “All of the merchants got a piece of paper notice from the city telling them that on Saturday morning, we are installing these meters.”

The installation originally was scheduled for May 1, Adrean said, but has been delayed. The council voted 14-0 on May 3 to put a 30-day moratorium on the installation of the meters so a council committee could work with Duncan Solutions, the company that manages the city’s PARKatlanta program, to identify and fix with the parking contract.

At a council Transportation Committee meeting April 30, City Councilman Kwanza Hall asked for the moratorium after he received a host of complaints from restaurants and merchants in his district. Hall’s district includes parts of downtown and Midtown Atlanta, where the meters first were installed and enforcement has been strongest.

Shook said the big problem is “in the way the city and parking vendor have implemented this” in Buckhead.

“There clearly was a lack of communication,” he said. “We can’t be clobbering people right now.”

Adrean said that under the PARKatlanta program, Duncan Solutions “has the authority to install meters to reach a certain revenue level.” According to published reports, the program generates $42,000 a day in parking revenue. Under the contract the city gets $5 million a year from the program and the contractor gets to keep all of the revenues above what the city gets

“There is a complete disconnect between the ordinance, the parking company, the solicitors office and the court,” Adrean said. The question is whether tickets written by the parking company are a criminal or civil offense. Some argue that the company cannot write parking tickets if it is a criminal offense—only police officers can do that.

Hall said the city needs to go back to the drawing board on the contract and he claims the city has not done a good job of communicating about the new program. The city reportedly sent our notices in water bills.

“Why should be spend money and put up parking meters when we haven’t even decided what we are going to do?” Adrean asked. “And, by the way, will the meters be ‘smart’ meters that take credit cards or will you have to have a pocketful of quarters?”

Shook said uproar over the parking meters and parking enforcement eventually may have broader consequences.

“This will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for City Council to ever again consider outsourcing of city services,” he said. “First there was the United Water contract problems and now this.”