Portland parking meter revenue off 45% thanks to snow

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PORTLAND — Digging out from a week of storms has been costly for the city on two fronts.

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin on Monday said the cost of storm cleanups has already consumed 60 percent of the $1.1 million allocated in the city budget. That was before Monday’s storm, which dropped another 9 inches of snow and required a citywide overnight parking ban.

At the same time, last week’s revenue from parking meters was 45 percent off, Parking Division manager John Peverada said Tuesday.

After the Jan. 27 blizzard, a citywide parking ban was declared, followed by two partial Yellow Zone parking bans on Jan. 28 and 29 in the area bounded by State, Commercial and Franklin streets, and Cumberland Avenue. A partial ban was also declared for Tuesday night.

“When we are not plowing snow, we are in a snow removal,” Public Services Assistant Director Eric Labelle said Tuesday.

The night work is costly, but weather has also kept visitors off the peninsula, where most of the city’s more than 1,500 metered parking spaces are located.

For the week ending Jan. 24, metered spaces generated $42,000, on pace for the $2.16 million anticipated for the current fiscal year. For the week ending Jan. 31, the spaces generated just under $23,000, Peverada said.

“There was horrible weather and lack of business, people didn’t come downtown last week,” Peverada said.

Meters must be fed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, although parking is free on 11 city holidays. Accumulations of snow do not necessarily prohibit parking in metered or unmetered spaces, but Peverada said the expectation is if the meter can be reached, it must be fed.

Budget projections also include an anticipated $95,000 in fees and fines for vehicles immobilized with a wheel clamp for unpaid citations and $79,000 in fees and fines paid at the city “snow tow” lot for vehicles left on streets during a parking ban.

But Peverada said the storms do not necessarily lead to offsetting revenues in fines and fees, because fewer vehicles are on the road in bad stretches of weather.

The Parking Division staff tries to give some leeway as streets narrow, but Peverada said common sense comes into play.

“If everybody is parked on one side of the street and you park on the other and it gets narrow, it is not safe,” he said, adding the city will also post temporary no-parking orders.

The revenue gap last week was dramatic: in a full year it would lead to a shortfall approaching $1 million. But Peverada said the weekly average of $42,000 in revenues can also be exceeded when the weather is good.

“All we need is some 40-degree days and this stuff will melt quickly,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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A parking meter on Middle Street in Portland is nearly obscured by a snow bank Tuesday, while Beverly Garrigan shovels the morning after another winter storm. City officials estimate 60 percent of the $1.1 million budgeted annually for snow removal has been spent, while weekly parking meter revenue dropped last week from $42,000 to $23,000.

A parking meter on Cumberland Avenue is nearly buried Tuesday, the morning after another storm dropped 9 inches of snow on the city.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.