Council considering increase in municipal parking lot fees

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OCEAN CITY — City lots may charge up to $20 on high-volume weekends this summer if an amendment to the municipal fee code is passed by City Council.

Council introduced two ordinances at its April 12 meeting that will increase various city fees, including those associated with municipal parking lots and parking meters.

Council heard from Director of Finance Frank Donato on the amendments to two sections of the city code dealing with those fees.

“We review the ordinance on a yearly basis,” Donato said.

Changes, he said, could be recommended for a number of reasons including to keep pace with other towns or to level the budget.

He said these changes will stabilize the city’s fund balance going forward, adding $100,000 to $150,000 on a yearly basis.

Ordinance 12-06 amends Chapter 30, municipal fees and Chapter 6, police department and fire department of city code.

“There are fees that we are looking to increase in the finance department, police and fire department,” Donato said.

The biggest discussion item was changes to parking costs.

“Parking, we are looking to increase parking to a maximum of $20,” Donato said.

He said the current maximum fee for municipal parking lots is $15 for non-gated and $18 for gated lots. Donato said the fee schedule for parking lots are set before summer starts.

“We set a schedule in the beginning of the summer that we try to stick to,” he said.

He said that on a day-to-day basis, depending on the weather and traffic, the fee could be changed.

Councilman Scott Ping said that going to a $20 maximum in the parking lots would be bad publicity.

“As far as that goes, I don’t see any reason why we need to go to the max of $20,” he said. “I just don’t think it makes us look that good for the amount of days that we’re talking about.”

Donato said that for gated lots, it’s only a $2 increase for the whole day. For non-gated lots, it’s a $5 increase.

“I think it’s a negative thing to do in this economic climate,” Ping said.

Donato said that the city tries to stay competitive with private lots that sometimes go to $25 or $30.

“I get the private sector doing it; I don’t get the public sector doing it. I think we’re held to a different standard,” Councilman Keith Hartzell said.

Councilman Tony Wilson said he would like to see what the money from increasing the parking would be and if it would be worth the negative perception to increase the maximum parking fee. Donato agreed to provide that information at the next meeting.

“I know that every Friday Saturday night the parking lots are $25,” Councilwoman Karen Bergman said of private lots in the summer months. “I know that they’re full.

“So, I really don’t think $20 is out of hand and I don’t think that people would not come to the parking lot as a result of it.”

Donato said he tends to agree with Bergman, as did Gillian, who said he believes people would pay more to park if they offered services like valet. Gillian added that parking fees go towards paying for the maintenance of the lots and other city services.

“I’m not as concerned as you are,” he said.

Council President Michael Allegretto said he was looking at it as a user fee that will help off set taxes.

“I don’t see where the major negative is,” he said.

Other fees to be changed, Donato called general “housekeeping.”

Donato said there is a “modest increase” in fees for the boat ramp; the daily fee will increase from $10 to $12, the first seasonal pass will increase from $85 to $95, the second seasonal pass will increase from $40 to $50, the commercial pass will increase from $300 to $350, and the week pass without reserved parking will increase from $60 to $70.

Municipal airport fees will also increase, from $80 to $100 for monthly use of tie-down areas; daily fee will increase from $10 to $12. Preheating of airplanes will increase from $1 to $2 per engine per day. The amendment includes the addition of a $15 fee for replacement of lost or stolen gate car passes. Landside parking was amended to include the caveat that no overnight parking on or surround airport property will be allowed except by permit “issued by the airport manager or his or her designee.” It lays out the schedule for landside parking, as well. The yearly tie-down fee will increase from $800 to $1,100.

Donato said that the police department used to have their own fees for copies, which by law must be consistent with the Open Public Records Act. The amendment eliminates the older fees and replaces it with current OPRA fees.

The fire department fee for emergency medical services will increase from $600 to $650 for ambulance runs.

“Each time we look at this, we do a poll of surround municipalities,” Donato said, explaining the procedure makes sure the local fee is consistent with surrounding municipalities, some of which charge up to $800 for the service.

Permit parking fees for the Atlantic Avenue lot will increase from $650 to $750. Bus Parking will be allowed along the front of the Primary School in designated spots only July through August, 7 a.m.-midnight. The fees will be $75 with reservation, $100 without reservation.

“We tried it out last year; it worked good so, what we’re looking to do is codify that arrangement,” Donato said.

Metered permits will increase from $125 to $150 for the season.

The ordinance allows for the implementation of a discount parking pass program for non-profit organizations and community events.

There are also fees associated with community services, which Director of Community Services Jim Mallon spoke on. Planning, zoning and flood board application and escrow fees will decrease slightly, Mallon said, from $125 to $100 for certain fees.

“This is based strictly on feedback from our customers,” he said.

Donato said that the administration is also looking into the fees at the Aquatic and Fitness Center and may seek to codify some of the fees being charged for programs currently being run there.

The second reading and public hearing of the ordinance will be 7 p.m. April 26 in City Hall.

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