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April 29, 2014 7:19 am

EDITORIAL: Parking problem must be solved by downtown itself

Written by Tom Lawrence

Powell has a parking problem.

There’s a tremendous demand for parking in downtown Powell during certain hours of the day. More and more, people want to stop at the stores, shops, restaurants and bars in the city’s core. We’re glad that’s happening and hope it continues.

In many ways, it’s a good problem to have. It certainly beats the alternative.

Here’s the rub: So many vehicles park in the downtown area, especially during the middle of the day, that some business owners are concerned they are losing customers.

People drive past a store, shop or restaurant and see no available parking. They keep going, costing that business sales.

A downtown business owner brought the matter before the Powell City Council earlier this year and asked the city to enforce the two-hour parking limit. The council mulled it over, and asked Police Chief Roy Eckerdt to look into the matter.

Eckerdt did, and reported back to the council on April 7. The people causing the problem, he said, are business owners and their employees. They are taking up far too many spots during the day.

The chief said he does not have the manpower to devote an officer to marking tires and writing tickets, and the council wasn’t prepared to hire someone just for that task.

In addition, Eckerdt said without signs announcing a two-hour limit, such tickets may not hold up in court. That, he said, was “the elephant in the room.”

Several members of the council, including Councilman Eric Paul, said they were concerned about sending the wrong message to people who come downtown to shop, see a movie, eat or have a drink. If they have to worry about getting a ticket, they may choose to take their vehicles — and dollars — elsewhere.

There was even some talk of dropping the two-hour limit entirely, but the council, led by Councilman John Wetzel, decided it is needed, even if it’s rarely enforced. Lifting the limit entirely may make things worse.

For one thing, there have been incidents where feuding businesses purposely parked their vehicles in front of a competitor’s shop. That’s childish and counter-productive. Downtown has to grow and succeed together; no business is an island.

Instead, we applaud the steps that are being taken. A few 15- and 30-minute parking spots will be created in downtown, likely near Powell Drug. Signs will mark those spots.

We suggest a few time-limited parking spaces in front of the post office as well.

We believe time limits for both areas should be limited to business hours Monday through Friday, except for holidays, so those spaces would be available to people in the evenings when they dine out or attend a movie.

A serial parking violator may draw police attention and get a ticket or two. That should help send a message since a $20 fine will get people’s attention.

We also suggest putting up signs letting people know about the two downtown, publicly owned parking lots. Both often have numerous empty spaces; using them could help open spots for customers of our city’s core, which is undergoing a renaissance.

But in the end, it’s up to the people who work downtown to solve this. They must decide to pull together to make the area an inviting place for people to park their vehicles and spend their money.

A big part of that is working together. We encourage continued discussion on this and think business leaders, including the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce staff, can come up with a winning strategy here.

Councilman Josh Shorb summed it up well, in our view.

“I think they need to police themselves. They need to help themselves,” Shorb said at the April 7 meeting. “I don’t want to hire another police officer to do it for them.”

We concur. The solution is for downtown business owners and managers to help themselves, and to encourage their employees to help as well. Park behind your building, use one of the two parking lots in the downtown area, or park on a side street and walk a block or so.

It’s good for your health — and for the financial well-being of your company.

3 comments

  • Comment Link April 29, 2014 8:07 am posted by clipstein

    there is an old saying it takes a community working together to make a community... and that includes a paper and media. The good old boys need to understand this and hopefully this editoral will do some good. Instead of if you don't agree we will run you out of town. I gave the town the opportunity to get together and help but heck no this is what we want and we will only take and take. We will make it hard and try to make it as hard as we can. Well karma has come home to roost. Get the popcorn and put butter on mine--please

  • Comment Link April 29, 2014 12:59 pm posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    I prefer Orville Redenbacher to Jiffy Pop.Powell has turned into the entertainment center of the Rockies and it gets even better.

  • Comment Link April 30, 2014 12:05 pm posted by Salty Dawg

    People moan about the parking problem in Powell,keep it up and more and more will run to Billings to shop.The traffic from Park County to Billings on Saturdays is like the Oklahoma Stampede.

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