Oxford parking commission recommends meter bid

town_oxford_greenBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – The three-year voyage to paid parking in downtown Oxford is back on track.

After the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission balked Monday at recommending bids for which they claimed insufficient information, the group met Friday with the mayor, parking director and city engineer for follow-up.

After the three officials clarified details of the bids, commissioners voted to recommend a $386,784.30 base bid from Oxford-based Bennett Construction to buy and install 315 IPS parking meters for streetside parking on and near the Square. (The $114,000 figure quoted in Tuesday’s Daily Journal was not the base bid but an alternate that would have added vehicle sensors to the contract.)

The Board of Aldermen will likely approve the bid Tuesday, starting a 90-day window for the meters to be installed and operational.

The move to paid parking comes after a year-and-a-half of increased management of streetside parking, which has been free since the early 1970s. Enhanced fines and stricter enforcement have largely ended all-day parking in storefront spaces by downtown employees, but the roughly $20,000-per-month management fees paid to SP+ (formerly Standard Parking) has far surpassed the fines that the company projected would make its contract a break-even effort for the city.

Under a new city parking department that will take over the management from SP+, drivers may continue to park for free in off-street lots or pay a fee – likely $1 per hour in 15-minute increments – for the convenience of storefront parking.

“We’ve got two goals,” Mayor Pat Patterson said of the endeavor. “First is to manage parking, and second is to create a stream of revenue for a parking garage.”

The commission discussed the possibility of adding vehicle sensors that would cancel out leftover fees when a car leaves and would direct enforcement personnel to violators.

The cellular-connected meters will charge a state-mandated service fee for debit, credit and Ole Miss Express cards – probably 13 cents per transaction – it also will work with change.

“We want to go to a simple system that people understand and accept,” Patterson said. “They pull up in front of University Sporting Goods, put in their quarter, go in and conduct business, come out and leave.”

After the 6-0 to recommend the base bid, Commission Chairman Tom Sharpe said of the delayed vote, “This has been a little bit of a hiccup, but I think it’s been helpful.”

errol.castens@journalinc.com