Haverhill Delays Paid Parking Downtown Until May 1; Councilors Sought 3-Month Wait

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

Haverhill is delaying the return of paid parking downtown until May 1.

Paid parking, suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, was set to return today, but city councilors voted unanimously March 10 to ask Mayor James J. Fiorentini to delay the plan three months. Councilors asked to wait for the purchase all new equipment and signs. The mayor, however, said income from paid parking is needed to pay for new meters and other improvements.

“The new meters and kiosks are similar to the ones we have now. They are just new, modern and more reliable,” Fiorentini said Friday. He added the city will have “parking ambassadors,” as suggested by the City Council, for the first week or two to assist people who need help. “We’re also likely going to have a grace period in which we won’t be issuing tickets for the first week or two until people get used to it,” Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini said the city’s parking manager, LAZ Parking, is double-checking every one of about 40 meters and kiosks and paid parking will not begin until all are in “guaranteed good working order.”

The mayor’s office explained in a statement that paid parking is intended to free up prime parking spaces on the street for restaurants and other business customers and create parking “turnover.” In the absence of paid parking, drivers often park vehicles on downtown streets for hours at a time and even overnight, depriving business customers of convenient spaces.

“We suspended it because pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic had decreased significantly during the pandemic,” the mayor said. “But now that our restaurants are reopening and people are beginning to flock back to our downtown with the warmer weather and outside dining on the horizon, the time has come to start getting back to normal, and that includes paid parking.”

Parking fees are set to increase to $1 per hour and hours will be made uniform from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. both on street and in public lots. Saturdays are now included in the paid program, but parking remains free on Sunday.

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