The Jasper City Council discussed the issue during its meeting on Tuesday.
Public Works Director Joe Matthews introduced two possible solutions for downtown parking issues.
“We’ve had complaints about parking downtown for some time, but we have had a petition given to us from merchants downtown asking that we do something,” he said.
Matthews said the city already has an ordinance in place that forces a two-hour parking limit on all spaces downtown.
“Some time in the past we stopped enforcing that ordinance,” he said. “We have the signs, but we don’t enforce it.”
Matthews said the city council could decide to limit the areas where the two-hour parking is enforced.
“The biggest problem is around the courthouse,” he said. “Part of the problem is due to the fact that a number of county employees at the courthouse and the probate judge’s office take all the parking in the center of town, and they park there all day long.”
Matthews suggested limiting two-hour parking to 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue from 17th Street to 20th Street as well as 18th Street and 19th Street from 1st Avenue to 4th Avenue.
In the past, the city has charged $2 for a parking ticket. Matthews suggested to increase that fine to $25.
“To park for $2 in 2013 is a pretty good deal,” he said.
Another solution for the parking problems around the Walker County Courthouse suggested by Matthews was to make 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue one-way streets between 18th Street and 19th Street.
“By making those areas one-way streets and using angle parking, it would increase parking downtown by another 40 spaces,” he said.
Matthews said the county owns 20 to 22 parking spaces between the courthouse and the annex. He said the city would have an option to negotiate with the county to create an area for courthouse employees.
“The biggest problem is citizens can’t park downtown,” Matthews said. “They have to walk a block or a block and a half because the employees of the courthouse park right outside that building — that’s the problem.
“From the city’s viewpoint, we want to do what is best for the taxpayer,” he added. “What’s best if for us to have a place for employees and for the taxpayer to be able to pull right up to city hall or to the annex, which is what we do.”
Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey said the merchants he had spoken with favored both suggestions and asked council members to consider both.
Posey also said the two-hour parking suggestion is not meant to be a revenue generator for the city.
“We’re not trying to make money off it,” he said. “We just want to stop the use of those spaces all day.”
The council has scheduled a work session for Tuesday at noon to discuss the parking situation.
Another situation causing parking problems downtown is the closing of a parking lot across the street from the Walker County Jail.
The Walker County Commission had leased the lot for several years, but recently decided not to renew the lease. Commission Chairman Billy Luster said it was a economic decision.
“The parking lot was costing the county several thousand dollars each year, so we decided we didn’t really need it,” he said. “It was a purely economic decision.”
Several business owners in the area were upset about the closing of the lot. Luster said he had received several phone calls about the issue.
“We didn’t know the lot would be closed to the public just because we didn’t need it any more,” he said.
Luster said the commission is considering several ideas to help parking issues downtown.
“We’ll probably reach out to the city to see if they might want to pay some on the lot,” he said. “We are also negotiating on some other ideas.”
Luster also said turning 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue into one-way streets might be a good idea.
“I think that is a great idea and would alleviate several issues,” he said.