SCRANTON – In a 3-2 spilt decision, City Council gave final approval to the removal of 78 parking meters surrounding Community Medical Center to allow permit parking for hospital employees until renovations are completed at their staff parking garage.
CMC agreed to compensate the city $2,000 per metered spot, payable on a quarterly basis. At council’s April 12 meeting, they amended the legislation to deposit the money in a special city account instead of having the funds benefit the Scranton Parking Authority, earmarking the money for the police and fire departments.
“We’re looking to set them aside for public safety expenses in the event of layoffs and other possible situations,” Councilman Jack Loscombe said.
The fee, Council President Janet Evans explained, will be paid to the city of Scranton since Scranton Parking Authority employees are not required to monitor the meters during the term of the agreement.
The hospital will also provide proper signage to indicate the new parking arrangement.
Additionally, they revised the legislation to place bags over the meters instead of having the meters physically removed. On Tuesday, they made another amendment to limit the agreement to Dec. 31, 2011, or whenever the employee parking garage reopens, whichever comes first.
The agreement will affect 23 meters located in the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Mulberry Avenue, 31 spots in the 200 and 300 blocks of Arthur Avenue, 21 spots in the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Linden Street, and three spots in the 300 block of Colfax Avenue.
While the amendments were passed unanimously, Councilmen Bob McGoff and Pat Rogan voted against the final passage of the legislation. Rogan said that he believes CMC employees should park in the hospital’s other garage and leave the meters for visitors, noting that additional parking is already being used by CMC in the adjacent Nay Aug Park.
Evans said outpatients receive free parking in the visitors’ parking garage, so that would allow them fewer spaces. Rogan also argued that the garage’s $4 flat fee for 24 hours of parking isn’t fair to visitors only staying for a short time.
“Passing this legislation is simply a vote to increase fees for people who visit relatives at CMC hospital,” Rogan said. “I personally believe that the city has done more than enough to accommodate the CMC in that region…Now they want to take away 150 spots.”
Rogan encouraged his fellow council members to “see the light,” but Councilman Frank Joyce said that the money paid by CMC would be far more than what would be collected from the meters, which are not always occupied. Funding public safety is also important, he said.
“If we could have more revenue coming into the city, which would ultimately help save police and fire positions, then, yes, I have seen the light. I’ve seen the light of voting this through and saving our police and fire positions,” Joyce said.
“This legislation represents a compromise. No situation is ideal,” Evans agreed.
Council ultimately passed the agreement 3-2.
They also unanimously approved the introduction of legislation to execute an addendum to the city’s agreement with the Scranton Parking Authority, then tabled it to allow city solicitor Boyd Hughes review and amend the legislation for future passage.
As it stands, the legislation says that when any meters are taken out of service and replaced by permit parking for four months or more, the fees will be paid directly to the city, not the authority.