AUGUSTA — Changes to parking rules meant to help eliminate confusion about where downtown residents can and can’t park overnight, especially during the winter, are up for approval by city councilors Thursday.

The changes are meant to accommodate the recent influx of residents to downtown, including those living in 30 or so new high-end apartments on the upper floors of downtown buildings.

The current downtown parking rules, city officials, residents and building owners said, can be confusing even for those trying to park legally.

So officials hope a combination of rule changes to make it easier for downtown residents to park closer to their apartments overnight and during snowstorms, clarification of other regulations and better signs will help eliminate confusion.

“I think this is going to be a major step forward in eliminating those 2 a.m. head-bumping sessions I know have occurred in the past when you have a police officer, a public works worker and residents outside trying to figure out where they can park,” said Steve Pecukonis, downtown manager and executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance.

A proposed amendment to city ordinance, which councilors are scheduled to consider adopting as an emergency measure Thursday so it would take effect immediately, would designate the east side of Commercial Street and Commercial Street Extension as overnight parking during the winter months for residents.

Commercial Street is a one-way street parallel to Water Street between Bridge and Oak streets, while Commercial Street Extension is between Water and Bridge streets. Traffic on the street travels south.

Overnight parking there now, as on most city streets, is banned during the winter, though that ban is often not enforced unless vehicles are parked where they interfere with snow removal.

The change is proposed as an emergency action because winter weather is already here, City Manager William Bridgeo said.

Bridgeo said adopting the measure as an emergency means there is “no second reading, no 30-day waiting period, and it takes effect Thursday,” Bridgeo said.

The idea of the change is to move overnight downtown parkers to the east side of Commercial Street, so city snowplows can continue to plow to the right, or west side, of the street. Later, city crews will come back to remove the snow left on the east side.

Public Works Director Lesley Jones said the city would put temporary signs out on the street before the east-side snow is removed, and residents, during snow removal there, should park in the nearby parking garage.

That change is relatively minor but is part of other plans meant to make it easier for residents to park overnight downtown, including changes to Augusta Parking District regulations and the installation of more and improved signs stating parking rules.

Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills said there are more than 20 on-street parking spots along the east side of Commercial Street.

Mills told councilors last week the city is preparing to put up signs downtown, and officials want to make sure city parking ordinances and signs on the street are consistent.

Councilors are also expected to vote Thursday on using the “construction management” method of selecting a contractor for the $11.7 million Lithgow Library renovation and expansion. An alternative to the more traditional bidding process of having an architect draw up plans and designs and then having general contractors bid on the project, the method would involve a general contractor earlier in the planning and design process. The selected contractor then works with the architect, having input in its design. The city and contractor then negotiate a price not to be exceeded for the project, based upon what the contractor estimates it will take to build the design he was involved in creating.

The method has been used in other major public projects including the Portland Public Library, the new $52 million courthouse under construction now in Augusta, and the redevelopment by a private developer of the old Cony flatiron building into housing for senior citizens.

Bridgeo assured councilors at their meeting last week that he “will not sign a contract to build a library that exceeds the amount of money we have on hand for the project.”

Councilors meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center. Councilors are also scheduled to:

• consider accepting the donation of two parcels of land to the city;

• consider zoning changes to allow the Viles property on Stone Street to be used as a conference center for nonprofit organizations;

• read two proclamations, one declaring November National American Indian Heritage month and another declaring Nov. 29 Small Business Saturday.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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