SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Common Council, at their first meeting in April, voted to spend $235,342 on 21 new parking pay stations to be placed throughout the downtown area. The proposal, which would see each pay station replace 8-12 parking meters, passed 5-2, with Councilmen David Naidu and Richard Sun dissenting.
Council general services chairman Patrick Hurley explained the City already had purchased 18 pay stations from the vendor selected to provide the 21 new kiosks. Each pay station is a central machine where several customers pay for their parking time.
Hurley added the vendor, Integrated Technical Systems, Inc. has been in business since 1994 and more than 1,000 of its units have been installed throughout the state thus far.
He noted that the 20 of the 21 units would be solar-powered and the other unit would be electric. Also, the solar units could run for three days without light, had backup batteries and could be recharged by portable chargers if needed.
The Councilman said the new units also would be integrated into the City’s new license plate recognition technology that would enable motorists to enter their license plates rather than space numbers when paying for parking.
The total cost of the 21 units includes equipment costs of $218,017, $12,600 for installation, and $4,725 for freight costs.
Prior to the vote, First Ward Councilman David Naidu wanted to know how the new expenditures fit into a comprehensive approach the City is looking to take relative to its parking program.
Naidu said supposedly the purchase of new technology was to go hand-in-hand with reductions in personnel costs, but the Parking Agency’s proposed budget included conversion of part-time positions into permanent, full-time positions.
He also noted that the Council recently acted on the purchase of a new truck to be used in transporting parking meters, and wanted to know how this fit into the desire to replace meters with the centralized pay stations.
Hurley replied that the proposed resolution on purchase of the new pay stations was intended as a “stand alone” measure, and fit in with part of a comprehensive plan to replace meters.
He added that whether or not to add personnel was part of a budget on which the final decisions had not been made and, when those decisions were made, Councilmen -- in the words of former Council President Dave Bomgaars -- would have “two bites of the apple” -- one when the overall budget was voted on and a second when the actual positions were approved.
Naidu replied he had supported the comprehensive Level G study of the City parking program and, if individual expenditures were not looked at collectively, then the City would not know the direction in which its parking program was headed.
First Ward Councilman Robert Rubino, who voted against approval of the Level G study because he thought many of its elements were repetitions of previous parking studies, said, however, that many of the steps now being taken were all “pieces of the puzzle” in an overall parking plan.
He noted the plan included license plate recognition, which would eliminate the need for painted spaces, and possibly the building of a new parking garage in the central business district.
Rubino said the overall parking plan involved a vision for implementation, but portions of it had to be dealt with one at a time.
Parking Services Manager Rita McNany, replying to questions from several Councilmen about cost savings, noted, for instance, that the cost of removing a total of 178 meters throughout the City would be saved because the work would be done by crews from the Summit Department of Public Works.
She told Rubino that removing space striping would give the City about two additional parking spaces per block.
Responding to a question from Naidu, she said the centralized pay stations would reduce the time of collections, adding the portions of the unified parking plan implemented so far had not given her enough data to determine the level of staffing savings, if any, that would come from the pay stations.
The City originally purchased 18 centralized pay stations, with 16 in all off-street parking facilities, except the DeForest Lots, and two on-street pay stations on Railroad Avenue.
Much of the answer, McNany said, depended on the usage of the parking facilities, according to other municipalities that have centralized pay stations.
She also said she would need more experience with the centralized stations to answer a question from Councilman-at-Large Richard Sun about savings that would result from having the centralized stations solar-powered.
Council president Michael McTernan said he agreed with points made by both Naidu and Hurley, supporting the need for a long-term plan, but perhaps looking more deeply into the labor cost issue when the parking agency budget was presented.
McTernan added perhaps “economies of scale” would help save on labor costs.
Second Ward Councilwoman Mary Ogden noted that the ease of use to be brought about by the eventual unified structure of the parking system was desired by most residents because Summit is becoming more and more of a “transit city.”
On another parking-related measure, the Council voted to extend, for six months, the program through which residents with City parking permits are given discounted rides to the Summit train station through Uber, with the hope that this will free up spaces in City parking facilities.
Hurley noted that, when the program originally started, the City hoped for a “1-to-1 ratio” with 100 permit holders taking full advantage of the system. However, he noted, thus far that usage rates are actually less than one-third -- 30 percent -- of original projections, opening up 30 spaces.
The general services chairman noted that the initial pilot program was conducted during times of bad weather and holidays and thus was not as successful as the City originally thought it would be.
McNany also said some of those who signed up for the original 100 slots just registered because of the novelty of the program and did not really use the Uber privilege. She added there was a waiting list of about 45 residents who missed the originally-mandated 100 slots.
Hurley noted that extending the program another six months and adding 50 more slots probably would give the City a more fair assessment of the program’s effectiveness.
During public comment, Ward 1 Democratic council candidate Matt Gould asked if the recent negative publicity surrounding Uber’s management and allegations that it was overcharging immigrants at New York City airports would cause Summit to select another provider such as Lyft.
City administrator Michael Rogers replied that the City would not select another vendor, and McTernan added that Uber was selected after a competitive bidding process during which vendors such as Lyft also could have bid.
Hurley added that the City had awarded the contract before the negative reports about Uber were released.
Rubino added that with a “paucity” of about 450 parking spaces, the City needed a multi-pronged approach, including such programs as that offered by Uber to meet its increasing parking needs.
On another matter, Scott Ruf, coordinator of the Mountain Valley joint emergency dispatch center, gave the facility’s 2016 annual report.
The facility currently provides emergency dispatch services to Summit, New Providence and Millburn.
Ruf reported the center now has 18 full-time staff members and four per diem staffers.
He noted that, during its first year, from 2015 to 2016, it handled 261,700 incoming calls of which 218,000 were non-911 emergency calls.
The coordinator also said that 28,400 calls were for the Summit Police Department, while there were about 22,000 each for the Summit Fire Department and Summit EMS.
He noted that, of its first year budget of $2.2 million it spent about $2 million.
In response to a question from Ogden, he said it was possible the agency could begin accepting text message 911 calls this summer. This, he noted, would depend on the state rollout of the system and whether the state would finance routers for the new system or make it an “unfunded mandate.”
The coordinator also said the center was working on helping the various emergency services with which it deals to better communicate with each other.
Replying to a question from Hurley, Ruf said the center probably would complete testing equipment to eliminate communications “deadspots” in the Glenwood area in 60 to 90 days and rollout the improved equipment this spring.
Also at the meeting, Summit Mayor Nora Radest presented certificates honoring 10 Boy Scouts who have achieved scouting’s highest honor -- that of Eagle Scout.