Addressing the ongoing parking issues downtown

 

 

The woman walked into the newspaper office Monday afternoon wondering, almost pleading, if office supplies were sold here.

No, just check out Ramsey’s in the 200 block of Reid Ave.

She frowned.

“I can’t find a place to park,” she said.”I have circled three or four times.”

Though tossed out in jest, she seemed almost willing to follow the suggestion of someone riding with her back downtown to carve her out a parking space.

A long-time nemisis for the city, parking availability along Reid Ave. has become even more problematic as the storefronts along the main business corridor fill.

“Reid Ave. is really starting to rock and roll,” said Bill Kennedy, executive director of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency.

“We need to stop talking about (the parking) and do something.”

Kennedy floated the concept of a time limit for parking on Reid, three-hours was the suggestion, with violations drawing a fine, $50-$100 on first offense and rising for subsequent violations.

Kennedy said that was how a coastal town of similar size in Central Florida addressed the issue and said his conversations with community folks indicated it had worked as hoped.

City Commissioner Rex Buzzett, like all commissioners also a PSJRA board member, supported floating the idea in front of the Commission with an eye toward drafting an ordinance.

As the summer months approach, commissioners agreed the problem would only worsen.

Parking along Reid has long been a thorn.

More than a year ago, Kennedy and Roni Coppick, then the director of the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, met with business owners face-to-face to urge employees and employers to park off Reid.

The results, Kennedy said, were mixed at best.

Some businesses changed their ways short-term but reverted to status quo when it was apparent two or three resistant holdouts would not comply with the request.

Despite three downtown parking lots off Reid, one, granted, in need of upkeep, and parking across U.S. 98, too many spaces along Reid are being occupied, much of a given weekday, by business owners or their employees, city officials have long complained.

The PSJRA is considering the potential of buying a lot between Half Hitch Tackle and Sand Dollar Café but Buzzett said he would prefer to seek other solutions before spending $150,000 for the land for more parking.

The issue is compounded by the need to repave much of Reid Ave., particularly the area between Second and Fourth streets, where the road and parking areas have deep indentations and ruts.

“Reid has to be fixed,” Kennedy said. “The street is in terrible shape.”

Kennedy is seeking costs estimates for addressing the paving, potentially in phases, due to the expense and upheaval the work could cause.

His “pie-in-the-sky” goal would be to undertake repaving First to Fifth in one swoop, but fiscal reality is likely to intervene, he said.

The most problematic areas would be addressed first, then the next areas in priority and then a final phase.

Once cost estimates are in hand, city officials can consider a scope and timeline.

Kennedy also seeks to put other steps in place to bolster the look along Reid.

One, blow off the street each morning before the business community begins to arrive to enhance cleanliness and aesthetics.

A public restroom on a parcel next to the Chamber offices, leased from Bob Kerigan for a $1 a year, is a priority and Kennedy also hopes to add pet stations along sidewalks.

Kennedy also hopes to upgrade plants beds, replacing some with pavers in areas of high foot traffic and clean up the Dr. Joe parking lot, which would enhance available parking downtown.