Vendor picked to install new parking meters

mbatcheldor@theolympian.comJuly 17, 2013 

The Olympia City Council on Tuesday picked a vendor for parking meters to replace the city’s pay stations this year at an estimated cost of $611,000.

Council members voted 5-1 to choose IPS Group Inc. of San Diego over a competing meter vendor, Duncan Solutions Inc. of Milwaukee, Wis., after a monthlong trial of 10 meters from each vendor on city streets.

IPS rose to the top because “during the field test we had basically practically no issues with their meter,” said Karen Kenneson, business manager for Community Planning and Development. The company’s meters won the unanimous recommendation of a committee of Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, city staff and downtown business owners.

The Duncan meters had some technical problems and complaints from customers, she said. But feedback for IPS was “overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

Crews will begin replacing the parking pay stations with the new meters in August, Kenneson said, and the work will take about a month. Council members acted in February to jettison the pay stations after fielding complaints that they were hard to use and constantly broke down.

Their replacement will be 310 meters for individual parking spaces, unlike the pay stations, which covered one side of a block and issued receipts . The meters do not issue receipts but do accept credit cards.

Another 20 meters will be bought for spares, she said.

The cost of installing the new meters comes just three years after the city borrowed $725,000 to install about 50 pay stations, mainly in an area that previously provided 90 minutes of free parking.

Olympia is trading in the pay stations to IPS for $62,500. That rebate is reflected in the $611,000 estimated price tag of replacing the pay stations, Kenneson said. Also included is installation, five years of credit-card transaction fees and cellular phone bills for transmitting transactions.

All council members voted for the new meters except for Councilwoman Karen Rogers, who voted against them, and Councilman Nathaniel Jones, who was absent.

Roe, who has pushed for the new meters for years, said they are a “huge, huge difference.”

But Rogers questioned whether the city could pay the $611,000 price tag and suggested installing old-fashioned coin meters that don’t take credit cards.

“It’s not sexy to say lets put those back, but it’s a lot less than $611,000,” she said. “Why don’t we just go back to our old ones and save money?”

City workers already tested 36 “smart meters” from IPS during a four-month trial last year. City staff found that they spent 24 minutes maintaining the meters, compared with an average 16 hours of maintenance per week for the pay stations, according to a staff report. The city estimates it will spend $22,350 per year maintaining meters versus $46,210 for the pay stations, a $23,860 savings.

But the new meters will not accept the city’s “smart card,” a prepaid debit card that some employers give to their employees. The proprietary technology is not compatible with the IPS meters.

“We’re just excited to be going through with this,” Kenneson said. “I think people are going to have a lot easier time using the single space meters.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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