The City of Vernon approved $137,000 to replace 350 parking meters that were vandalized downtown.
Councillors voted Monday, April 27, to replace the damaged meters and beef up the remaining 600 for an additional $88,000. This will see all parking meter clock housings and dome caps replaced with a high strength ductile iron version.
Parking meters were projected to garner more than $950,000 in revenue for the city in the 2020 fiscal year, while the cost of maintenance was budgeted at $14,000, but in the past six months, there has been ongoing vandalism to the parking meter system rendering many useless.
“Bylaw staff have been working closely with RCMP resulting in the arrest and incarceration of six individuals,” the report to council reads.
The parking system is comprised of 950 on-street meters and by April 8, nearly 40 per cent were targeted by vandals and thieves.
“With recent events, this number has increased,” the report continued. “Estimated revenue loss due to damage to parking meters as of March 6, 2020, is $40,000.”
City administration said the parking meter housings used presently are made of metal and consist of three parts, but the dome cap and clock housing are made of weak, light weight zinc aluminum alloy. These are easily smashed or pried open in order to gain access to the coin vault from the top of the device, often leaving the top components damaged beyond repair.
When this was presented to council on April 27, Coun. Akbal Mund said vandalism has been a known issue for at least five years and he questioned the strength of the new casings.
“How effective is it going to be if I take a sledgehammer to it,” he asked.
City staff said neighbouring communities, including Kelowna, that made the switch from aluminum to iron, saw a “significant reduction” in vandalism.
The City of Vernon has previously examined the possibility of Pay and Display on-street parking pay stations, but the costs of the terminal, installation and monthly fees “are considerable.”
Councillors asked if Main Street could be used as a test ground for these types of terminals, but according to city staff, there are 111 parking meters on 30th Avenue and the cost of adding terminals would come in around $110,000 compared to the $42,000 it would cost to replace the meters.
The city said while terminals work well in lots and parkades, low-use areas in the BIA would not support these systems.
Terminals may also hinder pedestrian traffic on narrow sidewalks.
The cost of a terminal is around $9,000 each and two terminals would be required for each block so people wouldn’t have to cross the street. Monthly fees total $60 a month per machine. Vernon has approximately 95 blocks of meters, and not all of which can support a pay station.