HALLOWELL — Residents sounded off at a public hearing, largely speaking against the proposed paid overnight parking policy, claiming the service is not worth the proposed $100 fee.

About 30 people lined the Hallowell City Hall’s Council Chamber for the public hearing Monday to discuss the policy that was introduced last month.

Before the hearing, Mayor Mark Walker said this would not be the final vote on the policy. No action was taken following the hearing.

One of the goals of the program is to get residents to sign up for NIXLE, a program used by the Hallowell Police Department to send alerts to residents who enroll in the program. The service is free.

“This really is, in a lot of ways, an outreach program and a way of getting these residents on our NIXLE system,” City Manager Nate Rudy said. “So if we need (them) to move for plowing, or if there’s a flood, or if there’s some other reason why [the police department] has to contact them … that we have them on a registry.”

This winter, an unexpected ice jam caused flooding at many downtown businesses and destroyed 20 vehicles on Wharf Street.

As the policy is drafted, parking spaces would not be reserved for those who would enroll in the program.

Resident Jane Moore said the benefit of joining NIXLE is not worth the proposed $100 fee.

“I don’t see the benefit,” she said. “You can get on the NIXLE for free.”

The plan, officials said, also is designed to raise money to maintain parking lots. Moore also said the program would unfairly put the cost of maintaining downtown parking on the backs of downtown residents while other residents use the parking as well.

Further, the proposed plan would change overnight parking hours to 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Residents also would have to show proof of residence in the downtown district to obtain a permit sticker.

The permit sticker would grant overnight access — starting 8 p.m. with no guarantee for a spot — to the Perley’s Lane lot, Bulkhead lot, a lot on Water Street next to City Hall and the yet-to-be-built Central Street lot.

Resident Bob Colwell said the plan was “poorly considered” because the town could not accommodate all the residents parking downtown because it simply does not have the room.

“The town is not built for the concept of everyone having their own parking space,” he said.

Colwell also said landlords should consider paying the fee if their tenants need the parking.

The permit policy was spurred by a letter sent to Rudy by Will Furber, the owner of the Row House on Second Street. Speaking at the meeting, Furber said he doesn’t have enough room to accommodate two-car tenants at his property.

He said he would considered paying the fee to alleviate stress on his parking lot, and he believed the $100 fee was “very reasonable” for downtown parking.

“If it were provided by a landlord, it would be more than that,” he said. “Parking is valuable, and it’s not free.”

Resident Ed Miller said the plan could move cars parked for an evening out in Hallowell away from municipal lots and into residential parking spaces on Front Street.

Residents also said the program could encourage people who come into town to go to the multiple bars to drive while intoxicated in fear of being towed from a permitted lot.

Councilor Michael Frett said people who come into town and drink too much should use more self control.

“I don’t want to make people feel like it’s OK to leave their car when I’m intoxicated in Hallowell,” he said. “As a city, anything that we have to attend to is a cost (and) somebody that works for you, as a citizen, is doing that.”

Colwell said if Frett expected visitors to drink modestly, that he was in “fantasy land.”

“Come with me to the Quarry (Tap Room) at 12:30 (a.m.)” he said. “That’s just not the way it is.”

When Frett asked if Colwell thought it was the best use of city property to house the vehicles of drunk people, Colwell said it was “the best use of city property” to prevent drunk driving.

Former Councilor Maureen Aucoin —who stepped down because she moved to another ward — asked why the plan was being implemented as a policy rather than an ordinance. Ordinances must go through three readings at the council level and policies can be implemented at the council’s discretion.

Rudy said ordinances are harder to strike from the city’s charter and this policy is a “fail fast, fail cheap” model if it were to not go well initially.

Rudy’s proposal said the number of stickers would likely be limited to 45, which is half of the 90 parking spots in those lots. Furber floated making those spots exclusive to permit holders.

Walker walked said the fee — while not firm at $100 — is in order to make the program cost-neutral.

“There’s nothing final about this set you have in front of you today,” he said Monday.

Furber said this plan was a good first step to address overnight parking concerns downtown. He said the people he turns away from his apartments are usually young families with two cars who cannot park in his lot.

“(Young couples) would add a lot of vitality and energy to the center of town,” he said.

Discussion on the policy could continue at the next city council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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