By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The city of Oxford will host a public hearing at 5 p.m. May 15 at City Hall on a proposal to address downtown parking.
“The (Downtown Parking) commission decided to implement paid parking as a way to manage downtown parking,” said Tim Akers, city planner. After interviewing three companies, the commission is recommending a contract with Standard Parking, a nationwide parking services company, to manage the process at a base of $38,000 per year, with up to four $5,000 bonuses for exceeding performance measures.
Beginning Aug. 1, the plan is to charge $1 per hour for a maximum of two hours for storefront parking spaces on the Square and nearby blocks. If aldermen agree with the proposal, Standard will install payment kiosks about every eight parking spaces, where motorists may use either coins, credit/debit cards or prepaid cards to pay the fee. Compliance would be assured through a time-printed receipt to be displayed on one’s windshield.
Free parking would still be available under the proposal. City lots behind and northwest of City Hall, behind the Oxford University Club, southwest of the Square and by the city water tower would continue to be free, as would streetside parking more than a block or two from the Square.
“The goal of all this was never paid parking; the goal was managed parking,” said commission member Ron Hipp. “The goal was to give everybody in this room a chance to go downtown at 12:03 this afternoon and have a decent chance to find a parking space. We don’t have that now.”
One promised benefit is that Standard’s on-site employees will aim more at helping motorists with the new system than at writing tickets. As planned, the first and possibly second tickets will be free, a 10-minute grace period will be built in and handicapped parking will remain free. New wayfinding signage and Standard employees will also direct motorists to free off-Square parking and to Oxford tourist sites.
“There is almost an interconnect between what Standard is going to do and what tourism does,” Hipp said.
“We very strongly believe in the ambassadorial approach to this effort,” said Dan Martin, who is proposed as Standard’s Oxford manager.