Meter fees, fines jump in budget

May 31, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Annapolis businesses are preparing to pay more and get less as the city's 1995 operating budget goes before the City Council.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins has proposed eliminating city-run commercial garbage collection, doubling parking meter fees from 50 cents an hour to $1 an hour, and increasing fines for parking violations to $20.

Many business owners say they like the idea of hiring a private refuse company if it will allow recycling, but they are angry over the parking meter fees.

Michael Riordan, owner of Riordan's Saloon, said the city's proposal to double parking meter fees will hurt businesses just as they will be struggling to cope with the reconstruction of Main Street that is to start early next year.

"The timing of this is terrible," he said. "We're trying to attract people to come down here."

Ann Widener, owner of a store on Maryland Avenue, said increasing the fines for parking violations from $10 to $20 is too much.

"It sends a very, very wrong message," she said. "It's easy to pull up to a mall and not have to pay anything at all. We have to be aware of the competition."

Employees who use the meters will find a way to avoid the tickets, but customers won't, she predicted.

"I think the $20 fine will chase people away," said Sharon Russian, president of the Annapolis Business Coalition.

But not everyone at downtown businesses opposes the increase.

"If the increase in parking meters keeps (real estate agents) and the Maryland Inn staff off the meters, I don't have a problem with it," said Terry Drake, who works at Laurance Clothing store on Main Street.

A recent study showed that nearly half of the downtown meters are occupied by employees and business owners, forcing customers and visitors to park in residential areas.

City officials say it is too soon to calculate the savings such changes will bring.

The proposals are in the budget plan that will be sent to the council by Friday. A public hearing will be held on the $37.8 million spending plan on June 6.

By raising rates of the parking meters and increasing fines, city officials hope to encourage motorists to use the garages. The additional fees also would give the city a much-needed boost in revenue at a time when property assessments are down.

Some downtown business owners say they don't mind the increases but oppose putting the extra income generated in the general fund. They say it should be designated to improve parking and transportation.

Businesses leaders seem more resigned to, and even supportive of, the recommendation to privatize the city's commercial garbage collection.

Currently the city provides seven-day-a-week pickup to downtown businesses.

The city plans to discontinue the service and either allow businesses to choose their own refuse collector or to solicit bids for the commercial accounts.

Last week, J. Donald Groseclose, division manager of Eastern Waste Industries Inc., which operates Annapolis' recycling program, made a pitch to members of the Annapolis Business Coalition.

"The present service you receive is second to none," he told them. But he said privatization was inevitable and that his company could provide service to suit individual needs.

Except for the restaurants, few downtown businesses need their garbage picked up seven days a week. Many businesses say they want to recycle, but that option now is not available to them.

"I think we're going to be better off," said Genevieve McWilliams, owner of Annapolis Pottery.

Although the businesses have not received cost estimates for hiring a private service, she said the option of recycling will be a major benefit.

"The main consideration is that downtown Annapolis looks clean," Ms. Widener said. "Then we have to also keep cost in perspective."

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