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PO council looks to streamline downtown parking
Downtown Port Orchard can’t grow until the parking problem is solved, and the city has plans to build a underground garage that will get cars off the streets.
Until that happens — at least five years down the road — the city seeks to enact procedures that will provide a short-term solution to the parking logjam.
Parking enforcement procedures for city employees have been an informal process, where time limits haven’t been strictly enforced. With the impending construction of the parking garage, along with the expected increase in summer parking, the policies are about to change.
“We will no longer be able to accommodate selective enforcement efforts,” said Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend in a Jan. 28 memo to the city council. “It is important for the city council in a policy statement to make recommendations for city employees to park.”
These options include:
• make Geiger Street an eastbound-only thoroughfare with diagonal parking that allows eight- to 10-hour parking;
• offer permitted city employment parking, either as an employment benefit or a fee; or,
• remove the existing building across from city hall that is owned by the city and use it as surface parking for the city’s use.
The city council discussed the short-term parking situation at a retreat on Feb. 20.
“This is a productivity issue for the city,” said Mayor Lary Coppola. “As employees park in two-hour zones, they must remember to move their cars to avoid a ticket, and this can be distracting. So even if the city pays for employee parking, the productivity will increase enough to make the investment worthwhile.”
An estimated 30 employees work at City Hall and drive to work, although not all of them own their own cars and require parking.
Some carpool (both with other city employees and those who work elsewhere), and seven employees rent spaces from Kitsap Bank.
The mayor and the council seek to implement a fair solution for all concerned. Councilman Jerry Childs would like to provide parking as a fringe benefit and not require employees to pay for parking.
On the other hand, he sees the need for the city to meet the requirements it imposes on downtown businesses, which must provide parking for their employees.
“We shouldn’t ask anyone downtown to do anything that we do not do ourselves,” Childs said.
One option to be explored is the approximately half-acre parking lot across from city hall that is owned by the Port of Bremerton and used a boat launch.
Coppola has approached the port to see what conditions it would impose for use of the space, most specifically six spaces that face Bay Street.
The lot could hold about 70 cars, but the space is harder to gauge since it is usually occupied by boats and trailers of varying size.
Coppola made the request on Tuesday and has yet to be acted upon, according to Port of Bremerton acting CEO Tim Thomson.
There are a variety of options, including seasonal access, weekday access, space rental to the city, or providing the spaces for free.
The lot is usually empty during this time of year, but is full throughout summer months.
Thomson said enforcement of any agreement would be an issue, since the space is currently informally patrolled.
If Port Orchard used the space, Thomson said, the Port of Bremerton commissioners would be notified but it may not require their action.