Council OKs Raise of Monthly Parking Fees, Leaves Hourly Rates Up to Subcommittee

An existing downtown parking meter. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill’s City Council agreed to up the cost of monthly parking downtown but delayed approving an increase in hourly meter fees. (File photograph)

Hourly parking rates in downtown Haverhill aren’t going up — at least not in the immediate future. The City Council Tuesday voted to increase monthly parking fees in the downtown district, but failed to adopt Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s suggested ordinance that would hike hourly meter fees from 50 cents to $1.

Making his case to the Council, Fiorentini said that since paid parking was adopted in 2012, the downtown business district has flourished—not failed, as local merchants had predicted. Haverhill’s parking rates are among the lowest in the state, Fiorentini argued, and those rates must be increased to adapt to inflation.

“A lot has changed downtown and something else has changed: It’s called inflation. Nothing stays the same forever,” reasoned Fiorentini. “Our salaries aren’t the same as they were six years ago. Our costs in the city aren’t the same.”

Revenue from paid parking is reinvested into the downtown district to cover maintenance and upgrades to, among other areas, the Geocke Parking Deck. It also pays for a part-time cleaning attendant. With added revenue, the city would prioritize the replacement of broken meters and plan the development of a new lot in the area near Pentucket Medical, Fiorentini said.

Local merchants in opposition said their patrons were often hard-pressed to find available spaces nearby and that if parking fees were doubled, business would take a hit. They also opposed Fiorentini’s suggestion to standardize parking from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Drivers are currently afforded two free hours of on-street parking until 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Former City Councilor Lou Fossarelli pointed out the fragility of downtown businesses, arguing that many establishments can’t even earn enough revenue to remain open.

Four councilors—Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Melinda E. Barrett, Thomas J. Sullivan and Michael S. McGonagle—were required to abstain from voting due to conflicts of interest given their proximity to downtown, leaving their five colleagues to shoulder the vote on Fiorentini’s three ordinances.

Voting with his colleagues to up the monthly rates and send Fiorentini’s two other ordinances for subcommittee discussion, William J. Macek said the city must prioritize consistency.

“There’s an old saying that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” said Macek. “I want to be part of the solution, because I think we are at a crossroads.”

A date for the subcommittee meeting has not been set.