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By Jesse Wood

Visitors to downtown Boone fed the parking meters and pay stations more than $530,000 from July 2015 through June 2016, according to data provided by Town Manager John Ward.

That time period captures the first full year that downtown Boone has featured paid parking throughout its entire downtown area – not counting, of course, the days prior to when Boone featured paid parking as late as the early to mid ‘80s.

Of that $532,292 of parking meter revenue, 56 percent – or $298,236 is net revenue.

The Town of Boone paid $31,178 to IPS Group for meter software management; $39,275 for credit card processing; and $163,603 to McLaurin Parking, which manages the Town of Boone’s parking.

(In late 2014, the Boone Town Council approved a $216,839 contract with IPS Group for the smart meters and installation services.)

Folks fed the meter the most in October 2015, which saw $53,334 in parking meter revenue (before expenses are taking out). June 2016 saw the least amount of parking meter revenue, $41,449 (before expenses are taking out).

Ward said that the town is averaging about $25,000 per month in net revenue.

Ward said that the revenue will pay for increases in McLaurin’s contract and new meters to replace older ones that do not have the updated technology. In addition, Ward said that the Boone Town Council has budgeted to install new meters on Hamby Alley.

“My plan is also to recommend that we utilize parking revenue to expand parking options in downtown. I have been asked by Council to explore options for the lot next door to Town Hall. Currently, I’m working to develop a plan for a potential parking deck,” Ward told High Country Press in an email.

When the meters went live in early 2015, some downtown merchants criticized the one-hour time limit on the meters, which was created to minimize college students parking on King Street for class. After hearing from the merchants, the Boone Town Council extended the time limit of on-street parking meters to two hours. (The pay lots and Queen street meters already had extended parking options.)

Since then, Ward said that the feedback from merchants and public has been positive overall and that the Downtown Boone Development Association members informed him at a recent DBDA meeting that the meter program has increased traffic into their stores.

“We are constantly seeking feedback and looking for new ways to improve customer service,” Ward said. “We are also working hard to ensure that the meter program is successful, so that net revenues can then be used to increase parking options for downtown businesses and visitors to our Watauga County and Town of Boone government offices.”

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