Aldermen accept paid parking for downtown Oxford

Oxford StockBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – City officials will move ahead on implementing paid parking in the roughly 300 streetside spaces in downtown Oxford.

The Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to authorize staff members to establish specifications and advertise for equipment and to advertise for employees.

“We are recommending that the city move to paid parking on the premium, on-street parking spots around the Square,” said Parking Commission chairman Tom Sharpe. “We’ve been successful in moving people who work on the Square into off-street parking; storefront parking spaces are now available for people visiting the Square.”

The current management plan, administered by SP Plus (formerly Standard Parking), was supposed to offset costs with fines from violators.

“We have a very compliant group of residents and visitors, so that revenue stream has not materialized,” Sharpe said. The roughly $20,000 per month shortfall spurred city leaders to consider paid parking, which the commission had recommended three years earlier.

Despite advertisement of Tuesday’s public hearing, only one non-official spoke.

“I’m here representing the negative comments,” said Rick Roberts, a five-year resident of Oxford. He questioned the need for further intervention, noting that at 2 p.m. he counted 35 open spaces around the Square.

“Several years ago parking meters were used in this city, and they were taken down. Why was that? Has the situation changed?” he said, suggesting that the plan was simply a way to raise revenue.

“It seems to me this is going to take business away from the Square,” Roberts said, noting his own age group. “Retired people want to park close … not four or five blocks away.”

Mayor Pat Patterson said the city last had parking meters in 1972, that 105 off-street spaces were added last year and that most free, off-street lots are within a block of the Square.

“There are two goals: One is to manage parking, and the other is to generate a stream of revenue,” he said, adding that revenue would go toward a parking garage.

Tuesday’s meeting showed the first cracks in a consensus for the garage.

“I’m not sure that we’re ever going to need a parking garage,” said Alderman Janice Antonow. “The city will grow, but there’s a limit to how many people can fit in this Square at a time.”

City officials told residents that details will be decided further into the process.

“As we work on the ordinance, we’ll have another public hearing,” Antonow said.

“The real nitty-gritty is waged with the parking commission,” Patterson added.

errol.castens@journalinc.com