By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough Council member Jamie Cole said that there was a discussion about the rates for parking fines at a recent Police and Public Safety meeting, and borough officials are continuing to evaluate whether the fines should be increased.
At Monday night's borough council meeting, Cole said that the standard fines could be doubled from $10 to $20, with an additional $20 fee tacked on for people who don't respond to the initial parking ticket.
Cole said that the $20 figure was arrived at by looking at what Kennett Square and West Chester charge for their fines.
Borough council president Ron Hershey questioned whether it was appropriate to double the fines, but Cole noted that even at $20, the fines would be lower than those in Kennett Square or West Chester.
Cole said that they are also discussing whether the hours that parking meters are enforced should be expanded—perhaps from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We've got several new businesses in the downtown with expanded hours where the parking becomes a prevalent issue,” Cole said.
He explained that one of the purposes of increasing the fines is to discourage people from simply parking their cars in the business district and tying spaces for long periods of time without shopping in stores. Customers like to park as closely as possible to the stores that they are going in, and ideally the parking spaces would turnover quickly as customers come and go.
The downside to higher parking fines, of course, is the risk that a customer will stop shopping at a business in the downtown because he or she received a parking ticket.
Cole said that it was a delicate balance to set the parking rates at the right level and to enforce the parking meters during the right times to achieve the goal of keeping the spaces open for customers.
Hershey said that it was important for the borough to reach out to business owners to get their opinions on the subject. Cole said that they would do that while the Codes Committee considers the issue. Codes will draft an ordinance and then send it to borough council for its consideration.
In other business, Oxford Borough Council approved a contract with the SPCA for 2014, lamenting the fact that the fee for the contract is in addition to a $50 charge every time the SPCA is summoned to pick up an animal. Without the contract, however, borough residents wouldn't be able to have stray animals picked up and cared for by the SPCA and that duty would fall to the police department, creating a variety of issues.
Borough manager Betsy Brantner reported that the owners of the Octoraro Hotel & Tavern have decided not to pursue an Anchor Building Grant from the state after it was determined that Oxford Borough's participation in the grant, which is a requirement for this particular line of funding, would obligate the owners to follow Prevailing Wage rules that are in effect for municipalities.
Cole, who also serves on the Codes Committee, said that the language for the Historic District Ordinance is ready to be advertised so that a public hearing can be held. A tentative date for the meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 10.
A lot of interest in the ordinance is expected.
“I have heard so many comments about this already,” said council member Walter Saranetz. “Having a meeting is a good idea, but I think we’re going to get a lot of questions.”