Cape Elizabeth report examines Fort Williams pay-to-park model

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Aug. 13 reviewed a report that explores how pay-and-display parking could be conducted at Fort Williams Park.

Councilors also unanimously voted to send residents a November referendum on an interlocal agreement for the Greater Sebago Education Alliance Regional Service Center, and scheduled a Sept. 10 public hearing on the establishment of an Energy Committee.

The possibility of charging for parking at Fort Williams Park isn’t new. The town sent the question to referendum votes in 2006 and 2010; both were defeated.

In June, councilors asked the Fort Williams Park Committee to again research how it could be done. The report received Monday was produced by a subcommittee.

Councilor Chris Straw noted that the report is not an endorsement, but simply a response to the council’s request. 

If the council decides to pursue pay-and-display parking, the subcommittee recommended seasonal installation of 10 cashless meters in the park’s five “premium lots,” which accommodate 270 spots, with free parking in overflow areas.  

During Monday’s meeting, Victoria Volent, of 58 Cottage Farms Road, said she felt the “daily parker” rate of $2 per hour, with a two-hour minimum and sliding savings, including a full-day cap of 10 hours, was a “little too low.” 

“I do think this is a very good plan for moving forward … (but) I think we should be reviewing that rate,” she said. 

A  season pass would be offered to Cape Elizabeth residents for $5, along with a $15 pass for frequent out-of-town visitors. Numbered stickers would be purchased at the Public Safety Building, and would be issued per vehicle. 

According to 2017 traffic counts and 2018 ranger observations, about 277,000 passenger cars enter the park per day during the May-October season and 40 percent of them are from Maine. Based on the assumption that 10 percent of Maine plates are from Cape Elizabeth and 5 percent of “non-Cape Mainers” would buy a season pass, the subcommittee estimates potential annual revenue between $250,000 and $1 million. 

The report suggests citations for violations could be issued by park rangers, summer employees and contracted enforcement, at a fee of $20. 

According to the subcommittee, the meters could be installed by a vendor in as little as two weeks.

The panel also noted that public education, signs, season pass processing, and enforcement issues will all have to be carefully planned and executed, and the parking ordinance would have to be changed to reflect a contracted enforcement model. 

Education, communication and signage would be critical to “smooth implementation,” the subcommittee said.

Interlocal agreement

The council unanimously approved a request from the School Board to hold a Nov. 6 referendum on entering a collaborative partnership with 10 other public school districts – Brunswick, Gorham, Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook, School Administrative District 6 (Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Frye Island, Standish), SAD 15 (Gray, New Gloucester), Regional School Unit 5 (Durham, Freeport, Pownal), and RSU 14 (Raymond, Windham). 

According to the request, the partnership would “increase efficiencies through enhanced purchasing power in procuring certain goods and services.”

Town Manager Matt Sturgis said these types of alliances are incentivized by offering additional state funding to participating districts, who would receive an adjustment to their subsidy of $46 per student.

At Cape Elizabeth’s current enrollment of nearly 1,600, that would be almost $73,000 in additional funds. The board’s request states that the Department of Education promised to increase that to $96 per student for the following year. 

State statute requires the agreement be approved by the School Board, which plans to vote on the proposal during its Aug. 28 meeting. The agreement also needs voter approval. 

“There is no penalty for not doing it, but there is a benefit by joining into this collaboration,” Sturgis said. “… This is the state trying to encourage regionalization.” 

Energy Committee

The Ordinance Committee drafted language for a proposed Energy Committee, whose purpose would be promoting “municipal and community energy efficiency, conservation, and sustainability goals.”

Under the proposal, the committee with be tasked with making recommendations to the council for management approaches, policies, programs and techniques now used by other municipalities. 

The committee would also be in charge of researching, evaluating and recommending energy options, conducting public education to promote goals around energy efficiency and sustainability and collaborating with neighboring communities to pursue these goals. 

The council unanimously voted to send the proposal to a public hearing on Sept. 10. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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