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Square's meters will be removed
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MONROE - Even though the meters will be leaving Monroe's downtown Square, parking issues are not going away.

Charles Koch, chairman of the city's Public Safety Committee, said parking issues would come up again and would be addressed as they came to the committee.

"They will be addressed for most of the summer. A lot more issues will come up as construction progresses," he said.

The City of Monroe authorized the removal of parking meters from the Square area Wednesday, but not before hearing from Council President Keith Ingwell about complaints he received surrounding the free parking opportunities coming.

Ingwell said he received complaints from some business owners that it was not fair to retain parking meters on the side streets in front of their businesses. Other people wanted to know if they would receive a refund on the city parking permits they purchased to park downtown.

The Public Safety Committee recommended to council Monday that the parking meters be removed, an action required to make room for construction on the Square planned to begin about mid-April.

Fehr-Graham & Associates, which is overseeing the entire project, scheduled first to have the new water lines installed, which requires the middle rows of meters to be removed. The outer ring of meters would need to be removed by the first week in May, when replacing sidewalks would begin.

Seeking to reduce the loss of revenues to the street and police departments, upon which the 2009 budget is partly dependent, the committee decided to keep the meters on side streets.

Now some business owners off the Square want all meters removed at the same time.

The committee had discussed a phased removal of meters on the Square during construction, but expected people would favor parking in the free stalls and sought to eliminate the competition by removing all the meters at once.

The current metered parking system generated $64,200 last year. The street department received about $19,800 in meter money, while the police department received about $44,500 in fines.

The Square has about 240 of the 530 meters in town.

Police Chief Fred Kelley estimated the city would receive only about $22,000 in fines, should the city go to a free, time-limit parking system.

Ingwell said he also received an e-mail and two phone calls about getting a prorated return on the cost of parking permits.

The committee had discussed making city parking lots and the ramp time-limited and permitted parking.

Kelley estimated about $5,000 to $7,500 might be raised from permit parking.

"I certainly don't want to penalize anyone," Mark Coplien, chairman of the Finance and Taxation Committee, said.

But the city still is figuring on a portion of the parking revenue for this year's budget, he added.