Some downtown business owners are disappointed Midland council didn’t hit the pause button on the town’s new parking meters.
Sarah Kitchen, owner of One Stop Beauty Shop, said that after the initial shutdowns related to COVID-19, the big dig and then further shutdowns, council’s decision is unacceptable.
“It was disheartening that those who voted ‘no’ didn’t feel there was an obligation to push pause on these malfunctioning parking meters, and stop any further damage to the local businesses downtown while the necessary repairs are made,” Kitchen said.
“It may be hard to hear that the frustration is driving people away from downtown, but it is.”
But Kitchen said that while other downtown merchants she has spoken with feel the same way, the issue is with the malfunctioning parking meters and not the continuation of paid parking.
“I have never suggested the paid parking should be cancelled, rather I am suggesting that the program be paused until we can offer a user-friendly service to residents to pay for their downtown parking,” she said.
“The fallout is being felt by retailers and businesses downtown, and it is unacceptable, in my opinion, that the calls for help went unanswered.”
Artistry of Hair co-owner Vicky Juneau agrees with Kitchen’s assessment.
“People don’t care if they have to pay for parking,” Juneau said. “They care about convenience and a system that works properly.
“The frustration that this has caused has greatly affected surrounding small businesses.”
Juneau said council’s decision shows that the majority of councillors aren’t listening to downtown retailers.
“Parking meters are not the problem,” she said. “Council is the problem in saying that we ‘just like to complain and don’t like change.’
“It seems as we fight to stay alive throughout this pandemic, we are also fighting our own town council.”
Juneau said pausing paid parking while the system is fine-tuned would have given businesses some “breathing room.”
She added: “There is absolutely no peripheral vision from council when making decisions that can domino out (of control) and make a hard situation harder for those people affected.”
Downtown Midland BIA chair Scott Campbell said he’s frustrated with all the negative press this is causing for merchants.
“Facebook comment sections are doing nothing to help with the problem of educating the public on proper use of the system, or maybe more importantly how to properly report a problem with a defective machine to the town,” said Campbell, who co-owns Grounded Coffee Co.
“It is also causing more and more sentiment among people to not want to shop downtown regardless if anyone has actually had a bad experience with the meters.”
Campbell said that local merchants really need the community’s support at this time.
“People should educate themselves on the proper use of the equipment, and app, and if and when there's a problem with the meters, bring it up with town staff through their website, phones or email,” he said.
“Don't take it out on the merchants, we're all trying our best.”