During a work session on Wednesday, Chairman Billy Luster told commissioners the county owns property from the front steps of the courthouse to the back wall of the building’s annex. There is a small parking lot between the two buildings, but the county needs more parking for its employees, Luster said.
The county currently leases a space from Pinnacle Bank that has 31 parking spaces. Luster said he is in negotiations with owners of a property adjacent to the courthouse that would add 21 parking spots.
“That would give us 50 spaces that we could designate for courthouse employees only,” he said.
When the two-hour parking limit in certain areas of downtown was passed by the Jasper City Council, officials suggested much of the congestion downtown and the lack of parking spaces for area residents was due to courthouse employees.
“If our employees are the problem, we are doing things to find a solution to that problem,” District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said.
Davis said he is concerned the two-hour parking limit will be more of a problem than a solution for area residents.
“If I want to go into Bernard’s and get measured for a suit and then go eat at Los Reyes, I don’t know if I would have time to do that with this ordinance,” Davis said. “I live in Jasper and I’m concerned with some of these recent decisions. They have already raised sales tax and now they are charging fees to park. Where are we going to end? I’m concerned as a citizen of the county and the city.”
District 3 Commissioner Bobby Nunnelley was also aggrivated by the parking ordiance. He said, “Since we don’t own the sidewalk either, how can we walk to the building? Are they going to fine us if we walk on the sidewalk too?”
Luster said many of the county’s 230 employees are also customers of businesses in the downtown area.
“Our employees eat here and shop here,” he said. “I think we bring a good bit of activity to downtown.”
District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt said he was surprised about the parking issue.
“This has just become a major issue in the last three months,” he said. “If it is such a problem, I don’t think the two-hour parking limit is a good solution. If I am a citizen and the city fines me $25 for parking, I don’t think that’s going to be good for businesses.”
Luster said of the city’s ordinance, “This might not have been well thought out.”
Commissioners did discuss another idea that has been considered by the city council, which is to make 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue one-way streets between 19th Street and 18th Street.
“If those streets were one-way and the parking was changed to angle parking, it would increase parking spaces by 43 spaces, which would give us 73 total parking spaces around the courthouse,” Luster said.
Luster said there is also public parking near the courthouse just through the breezeway at the Blanton Building.
“There is a lot of parking there that is close to the building and a lot of times people don’t use it,” he said.