The Union Recorder

January 30, 2013

Lower courthouse parking deck under city control

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The end of 2012 brought a Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) agreement between the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County. The city signed over $897,000 estimated tax revenues to the county for the 10-year LOST contract life.

Numbers weren't the only action tossed into negotiations.

In return for the tax kick back, the city received control of the lower level courthouse parking deck concurrent with the LOST.

Councilman Phillip Joiner, District 4, said the lower deck was underutilized because of the paid parking aspect. The parking gate arms were removed by the city.

Joiner expects the added two-hour spaces will alleviate some parking issues.

“This is one of many steps that will certainly be part of the solution. I'm thrilled the city got it back in our negotiations because it will have an immediate impact once people realize they don't have to punch a ticket, and they can park for two hours,” Joiner said.

The city closed down the lower deck Friday for restriping and maintenance work. City manager Barry Jarrett said once light fixture replacements are complete the deck should reopen Thursday or Friday.

The Hancock Street entrance has been closed as well. Jarrett wants everyone to know entry and exit is currently available at the McIntosh Street entrance.

For now, Jarrett said restricting the Hancock corridor makes sense.

The city can still switch sides when needed for upcoming Streetscape Phase 3 construction or special events. 

“We wanted to eliminate that traffic down through there. We want to also be in a position that when we need to close either side we can do so,” Jarrett said. “I think the traffic flow can be better controlled entering and exiting from one direction.”

Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord said public works proposed a walkway that would safely lead pedestrians from the deck out to Hancock to shop or eat.

The lower deck spaces are enforced by the city as two-hour slots with exception of those designated for permit parking. Under the agreement, jurors are covered with parking passes provided during service.

Come Wednesday, Feb. 6, city police will implement an E-Chalking program in the deck and downtown collectively. This symbolizes the end of chalked tires.

“Twenty-seven years of my tenure we've always used chalk to mark tires and that's how we regulated the two-hour parking,” Swicord said.

The parking enforcement officer's electric car features a license plate reader just like patrol cars. The device captures tags as the officer rides along.

GPS coordinates determine which vehicles surpass the two-hour limit.

“The computer will ping a tag and say this vehicle has been here too long,” Swicord said. “It also time stamps, dates and takes a photograph of that car.”

If someone moves a space over per say, the system recognizes the movement and starts the clock over for that tag. Jarrett said the E-Chalking allows the city to monitor areas previously missed.

“It's going to be a learning experience because there won't be any chalk on the tires. It removes the human error and puts it directly on those GPS coordinates,” Swicord said.

Parking space enforcement routes begin at 7 a.m. and last until 4 p.m. or so according to the police chief. Weekends remain exempt.

Swicord said enforcement should begin to solve the downtown parking issue. Training students to use established commuter lots and business owners to use the deck leaves spaces open for consumers.

The lower deck contains dead space motorcycle parking, and Joiner said bike options would incentivize less vehicle usage. Bike racks there and in front campus spaces might be worth it, according to the councilman's upcoming proposals.

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