Since his administration began, Mayor Robert Blythe, along with City Manager Robert Minerich, has worked to “clear the table” by addressing some of the “low hanging fruit” regarding issues in the city.
Mayor Blythe said in his time as a commissioner, one common complaint that was brought to them repetitively over the course of several years from community members was the seeming lack of parking in the downtown area.
As of last Friday, the city installed six signs that designate public parking areas downtown. They also made the city hall parking lot accessible so that after 5 p.m. on weekdays and throughout the weekends, the parking lot is available to the public.
Minerich says that because of the additional spots at city hall, this opens the city up to 150 public parking spaces when city hall is closed.
Four of the signs were installed on Main and Third Streets, as well as one at each lot.
“From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the parking lot) is for business at city hall,” Minerich explained. “But what we did do is we moved all of our city vehicles to the lower lot on Irvine and Third Street, right below us, to free up parking. So at night, after five o’clock, at city hall, there are 68 parking spots that are available.”
Mayor Blythe said that something that was really important was the education process of parking that makes people aware that there is in fact downtown parking.
Minerich explained that late last August, the city held a public parking forum in which residents could engage and express their concerns.
“From what I gathered with that meeting was that people didn’t understand where additional parking was,” he explained. “To the mayor’s point, it’s awareness. People come down Main Street and they think that Main Street is the only place to park and that is not the case.”
Both Blythe and Minerich said that a lot of people see the packed spots along downtown Main Street, and don’t realize that a block away, there are plenty of on-street public spots available, but people would need to be willing to walk up a block.
“If you just go one block from Main Street, when you get onto Irvine (Street), there are spaces that are always open,” Blythe said. “From Irvine and Third, there are always spaces in either direction. If folks would just be willing to do that.”
Currently, the city has on-street parking which has a two-hour limit, with a $5 fine for amount of time exceeding that.
Minerich said that a problem the city often sees because of the lack of signage was people overstaying in these spots.
Blythe said that a lot of people accept to pay the fine rationalizing that the fine is so cheap, and compared to other cities, just paying to park is often more expensive.
Cars are marked by the city’s parking enforcement officer and checked every two hours throughout his route.
Minerich said that in his opinion, he would like to see the city decrease the time limit on public spaces to one hour, and increase the fine amount in the hopes that it would “move people” a little bit better.
The city manager described the signs as “inexpensive” at only $60 per sign, costing the public works budget a total of $360.
“That investment, if it helps the people and the people take advantage of it, well good Lord, multiple, multiple sixties worth,” Blythe said.
As far as extended parking or if a car was to remain in public parking overnight and into business hours at city hall, Minerich said the city is “flexible.”
“After about two or three days, that is when our codes enforcement will tag it, and give them notice, that it needs to be moved,” he explained. “And normally that is only if there is a flat tire, or it is broken down or something like that.”
Mayor Blythe said that the installation of these signs was something that was a simple task to make the people of Richmond happy.
“This is not something that is going to bankrupt the city, this is just a simple matter of serving the people by making them aware...I am sure there is $60 laying around in the budget, unused, that can really serve the needs or even the wants of the people,” he said.
Minerich said the mayor’s leadership was so great, because the pair doesn’t over think things.
“Common sense solutions to common sense problems,” he said.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.