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Midland opts to scrap controversial downtown parking meters

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For years, the Town of Midland has been grappling with finding the right way to optimize revenue from parking downtown, but the latest pay and display system, implemented last year, has caused more headaches than profit, according to stakeholders.

"It was mixed reviews. Some people didn't mind paying, but the machines weren't user-friendly. Some people didn't want to pay at all, of course. Some people avoided downtown altogether because the machines were such a problem they would go to big box stores," explained Downtown Midland BIA Operations Manager Katarina Knezevic.

In response to mounting criticism, the Town plans to scrap the pay and display system in December, reinstating three hours of free parking downtown, to be monitored by designated patrols.

"Council saw fit that really the best solution was to pull the band-aid off, eliminate the system," said Mayor Bill Gordon.

The decision has brought a glimmer of hope to the local business owners, who hope the move will get back some of their business.

"People are struggling. Christmas is coming, and I think giving them the opportunity to come down with that little extra money in their pocket will go to the merchants in town," said Sheri Maynard, who works downtown.

Business owners say the last few years have provided all kinds of hurdles to their desired success.

"It was first the big dig, then it was COVID, then it was these machines that really put a lot of barriers to people coming downtown, and so it was a negative financial impact for our members," Knezevic said.

However, that lost revenue needs to be recovered in 2024 to pay for upkeep and other standard expenses downtown, so the mayor says a temporary solution is still in the works.

"Do we add all that on to the broader tax base and call it a greater good? Or do we shoulder some of that responsibility on the downtown who is the primary beneficiary of this parking? Or do we find some ratio everyone can live with?" the mayor questioned.

As for a long-term solution, council is putting the power in the hands of the stakeholders.

A committee of downtown property owners and residents is being formed to develop a fair parking strategy to compensate for the lack of meter revenue before the 2025 budget.

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