Columbia Council decides to maintain Saturday parking fees in the borough | Community News

When: Columbia Borough Council meeting, June 14.

What happened: Downtown shoppers will continue to pay for Saturday parking after council members voted 6-1 against a motion that would have made parking that day permanently free. Sharon Lintner was the only board member who voted for the idea.

More information: The Columbia Merchants Association recently asked council to scrap parking fees on Saturdays to encourage more people to shop downtown and prevent the borough from getting a bad reputation with visitors who get traffic tickets parking. The group said shoppers, who sometimes don’t see the parking meter screen showing time remaining, get tickets and then complain about never visiting Columbia again.

Change of opinion: Member Todd Burgard, who initially supported free parking on Saturdays, said he changed his mind after considering the idea. He found that Philadelphia, San Francisco and other cities had canceled free parking after discovering it wasn’t attracting more customers in downtown areas.

Background: Columbia already allows free parking on Saturdays from November to February to promote holiday shopping downtown. The borough does not charge for Sunday parking.

ParkMobile coming soon: An online parking system will start in a few weeks and should solve many problems with downtown parking, such as the lack of parking signs clearly indicating parking fees and application times, said Mark Stivers, borough director, to council members.

Quotable“There will be clear signage,” Stivers said.

Details: Atlanta-based ParkMobile will allow customers to bypass cash and pay for parking through a smartphone app or toll-free phone number. People will still be able to insert coins into a counter, if they prefer. Additionally, shoppers will have the option to extend their parking time from inside a restaurant or store.

Hill of Zion: Chris Vera, who heads the Columbia Historical Preservation Society, has asked council to help pay the $15,000 needed to remove 45 damaged trees from borough-owned Zion Hill Cemetery.

More information: The society wants to use primarily private funds to renovate the African American Cemetery, which contains the remains or headstones of 17 black Civil War veterans and one World War I soldier. Vera estimated that at least 61 bodies are interred in the cemetery at 553 N. Fifth St. Plans call for a brick memorial wall that will hold loose headstones, wall panels that will explain Columbia’s African-American history , white marble crosses and a walking path around the cemetery, says Vera.

Quotable“If a tree is a hazard, we tell residents that if the hazard is on their property, they need to fix it,” council chair Heather Zink said. “Well, this time the danger is on our property, and we have to fix it.”

And after: The council will meet at 7 p.m. on June 28 and the meeting will be broadcast on the Borough’s Facebook page.

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