Stock up on quarters, and make sure your watch is working.
City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to increase the rates at Massachusetts Street parking meters and also to raise the fine for overtime parking in downtown.
But not before a little hand-wringing.
“We need to be very careful to not do anything to turn visitors or shoppers away from downtown,” said Commissioner Mike Amyx, who owns a barber shop on Massachusetts Street.
Commissioners, though, felt comfortable enough in making some changes. Among the increases slated to begin as soon as crews can reprogram the meters sometime in August are:
• The rate for parking at Massachusetts Street meters will increase to 25 cents for a half hour. Currently, 25 cents buys one hour at the meters. Under the new rates a dime will buy 12 minutes instead of 24 minutes and a nickel will buy 6 minutes instead of 12 minutes.
• The fine for overtime parking at any meter or parking lot in downtown will increase to $3, up from $2 currently.
• Hours of parking enforcement will extend to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Currently, enforcement ends at 5 p.m.
• The city will create a new habitual violator ordinance that will allow the city to charge people who have five or more parking violations within a 30-day period a $50 fine plus court costs.
Commissioners, though, rejected two other proposals made by staff. Staff members originally had proposed reducing the amount of time on Massachusetts Street meters from two hours to 1.5 hours. Commissioners said that would not give people enough time to find a place to park and shop or dine in the downtown area without breaking to feed the meter.
Commissioners also rejected the idea of creating four new 15-minute parking meters in each block of Massachusetts Street. Commissioners said they thought those meters would create too much confusion for visitors who might believe they were pulling into a regular two-hour parking stall.
Downtown Lawrence Inc. had endorsed the increase in fines and fees, but commissioners did hear from one Lawrence resident who said the stiffer penalties could end up hurting downtown.
“Getting a ticket places a whole negative experience on your time downtown,” said Stanley Rasmussen, who encouraged commissioners to consider whether parking meters were still needed. “I could have a great experience downtown, but then get a ticket and it just poisons the experience.”
Commissioners also unanimously approved several other fine and fee increases. Those included:
• In Municipal Court, fines for going at least 10 miles an hour over the speed limit will increase to $50, up from $38. Fines for traffic offenses such as running a stop sign will increase to $80, up from $68. Fines for various “notice to appear” parking violations will increase to $55, up from $40. The fines will be in addition to $52 in courts costs, which will remain unchanged.
• In the Parks and Recreation Department, weekend greens fees for the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course will increase to $25 for 18 holes, up from $23. Weekday greens fees will not increase. Cart rentals, for both weekends and weekdays, will increase to $16, up from $15 for 18 holes. At the Prairie Park Nature Center, the city will begin charging a $1 entrance fee for adults and 50 cents for children 5 to 12 years old. A $40 annual pass for families also will be offered. At the South Park Wading Pool, children will be charged a $1 entrance fee, unless the city can find a sponsor to pay for the roughly $3,000 it costs to run the wading pool each summer.
The fee for the wading pool won’t begin until next year. Fees for the golf course and Prairie Park Nature Center are expected to begin later this summer.
Commissioners on Tuesday also:
• Agreed to place on next week’s agenda a discussion about placing a fire engine in North Lawrence while construction on North Second and Locust streets takes place this summer and fall.
• Tentatively agreed to extend a maintenance agreement for the Bowersock Dam. Under the agreement, which would run to 2077, the city would continue to be largely responsible for the maintenance of the dam, which helps keep river levels high enough for the city’s Kaw Water Treatment Plant to operate properly.
• Agreed to rezone the 503 acres that make up the Lawrence Municipal Airport. The new general industrial zoning would allow for aviation-related companies to locate on the property, if the uses were approved by the city and the Federal Aviation Administration.