Morris Studdard said during a Council work session held Monday that too many downtown parking places are designated for elected officials and county courthouse employees. This, he said, is costly for downtown businesses, such as The Olive Branch, a new restaurant slated to open soon at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 19th Street.
"Some of the people who work in the annex courthouse, they're coming in every morning ... they're putting their cars there and staying all day," Studdard said. "And that's not right. The thing about this is this (parking spaces) is for the people who come to town to shop ... and they have to walk a block and a half."
City attorney Russ Robertson said, "It (parking near the restaurant) won't be a problem at dinner, but it will be a problem at lunch."
Mayor Sonny Posey said although he agreed with Studdard "to a degree," he added this was not an issue he wants to push.
"No. 1: The county does not have a place for a lot to park in. No. 2: For the first time in my memory -- maybe in history -- we're actually getting along really well. The county is financing ... this new state building. The last one to go in the current park. I'd hesitate to take an action, at this point in time, that might jeopardize that relationship."
Studdard said, "If I had a business there, I would sure like my customers to be able to park and not walk a block-and-a-half."
Robertson said the parking in downtown Jasper began to be a problem when the city stopped enforcing the 2-hour parking limit in downtown Jasper.
"Especially after lunch, you'll see cars there at 1:30 and they're there until 4:30 (in the afternoon)," Robertson said.
Councilor Johnny Rollins said a solution -- which he attributed to fellow Councilor Lee Swann -- is making at least two of the downtown roads into one-way-streets and converting the old lanes into angled parking spaces.
"You could probably stack twice as many cars on these streets," Rollins said.
During the work session, City planner Keith Pike displayed on an overhead projector photos of places in downtown Jasper where parking is restricted to particular individuals. Pike said the spots were not reserved only for elected officials.
Rollins said he wondered if it was right for the parking lot of Jasper City Hall to have spaces earmarked for the city councilors.
Councilor Gary Cowen said the parking problem is an issue the city needs to examine.
To determine if any city action is necessary, Cowen asked Pike to find out how many parking spots are in downtown Jasper and how many of those are available to the general public.
Cowen added that the decreasing number of available parking spots in downtown Jasper may be an indicator that commerce is increasing in the district.
The Council will meet again today during a regularly scheduled meeting held at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of Jasper City Hall.