City continuing with plan to upgrade to pay stations, license plate readers for downtown parking

The city parking board is continuing with its plan to install 14 pay stations along Central Avenue.

The Parking Advisory Commission had voted in June to recommend that the City Commission approve the purchase of the new pay stations and license plate reader technology for parking enforcement.

On July 30, the key was recovered in the elevator mechanical room in the city’s North Parking Garage.

Parking meter key recovered, city considering options

The PAC amended their recommendation during an Aug. 20 meeting to reinstall some of the old meters on the side streets.

Planning Director Craig Raymond asked the board during the Aug. 20 meeting if they wanted to continue with the plan to upgrade to pay stations and LPR or simply reinstall all the old meters.

“I think that moving forward with the pay stations is the logical thing to do,” said Kellie Pierce, a PAC member and director of the Downtown Great Falls Association.

She said she’s still concerned about finding funding for new security systems in the city’s parking garage since the key theft and other issues highlighted the need for increased security.

The proposal and purchase will have to be approved by the City Commission.

City moving forward with plans for license plate readers, pay stations for downtown parking

The meter key had been missing since a March 23 break-in at the parking office in that garage. A truck was also stolen from the parking office, but was located at the Super 8 with damage to the vehicle on March 24, according to the Great Falls Police Department.

City considering license plate recognition, pay stations for downtown parking enforcement

The key gives access to the city’s parking meters and the money inside of them.

When the theft was discovered, parking staff immediately collected money from all of the roughly 1,000 meters in the downtown parking district and removed all of the meter heads and placed them in storage, Craig Raymond, city planning director, told The Electric in March.

Downtown parking enforcement resumes June 22

Since the city wasn’t able to rekey the meters, staff worked on alternate plans to replace the meters with newer, modern pay stations and use license plate reader technology for parking enforcement.

The Parking Advisory Commission voted to recommend that plan in June and staff was planning to bring a contract for those purchases to the City Commission in August.

Parking board votes to resume two-hour enforcement downtown

On July 30, Raymond said he would notify the PAC about the recovered key and revisit their plans to replace the old meters with newer options to see if that’s still the option they want to pursue the newer enforcement options since they come with a cost, but also an estimated cost savings over time.

Otherwise, the old meters could replaced and parking enforcement would go back to normal, Raymond said.

Parking meter heads removed due to break-in at city parking office; theft of meter keys

The city also has the Passport Parking smartphone app that allows people to pay for parking from their mobile phones. Raymond said usage has increased for the app, but the city is continuing to work on raising awareness of that option.

The city ceased parking meter enforcement, effective March 19, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and resumed enforcement of the two-hour time limit June 22 but the meters have not been re-installed, meaning it’s free to park downtown currently, but the two-hour time limit is being enforced.