November 30, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Live from the BMA!
By†Jody Reese

Sometimes you have to wonder if our city leaders are running a government for 110,000 people or a comedy sketch routine for the viewers of MCAM. The recent news over the new parking system must be a joke.

City government is spending $900,000 to install parking kiosks throughout downtown. These kiosk things are going to replace the coin-fed meters. This came as a surprise to me and apparently most of the aldermen, including Alderman at Large and chairman of the board Mike Lopez. Though the last budget did include money for the kiosk program, Lopez and other board members didnít think that Mayor Frank Guinta and parking maven Brandy Stanley would just go out and buy the $900,000 worth of new parking equipment without first getting explicit board approval. But they did spend the money.

Brandi told the Manchester Daily Express that we poor city tax payers shouldnít be all that concerned with the $900,000 bill because the new kiosks would quickly make that back in increased parking revenues.

No tests were done before she and Guinta agreed to the $900,000 contract. So, we have no idea if people are going to use the system or simply decide not to park downtown. The new parking system is supposed to make more money because parkers wonít be able to use someone elseís paid meter -- as we can now. Instead of putting coins in meters, parkers will now have to go to a kiosk and pay for a parking receipt that they will then have to walk back and put in their window (on the inside). Even if you have time left on your parking receipt, the next parker after you wonít be able to use it, thus the extra cash to pay for the kiosks.

The real selling point to this new system is that we will be able to use our debit and credit cards at the kiosks. Unfortunately, because the kiosks have a $1 minimum purchase for credit cards, itís likely the credit card processors will yank the service. Credit and debit card rules prohibit minimum charges. If that werenít bad enough, as the deal stands now, if we get to use credit and debit cards at all, city government will be forking over 18 cents of every dollar changed to the credit card processors. Officials say the 18 cents will be negotiated down, but negotiating down to 3 cents -- what most retails pay -- will be a real challenge.

In the end, I guess the joke is really on us.

Correction: In my publisherís note last week, I wrote that a constituent of Ward 9 Alderman Mike Garrity tried to get a landscaping job at the airport but didnít have a high school degree. In fact, he did, according to Garrity. The human resource department rejected him because he didnít have landscaping experience.