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St. Joseph City Commissioners have moved toward the implementation of paid parking downtown during the summer months.

At a Monday meeting, they heard from Assistant City Manager Emily Hackworth about recommendations from Walker Consultants, the firm commissioners hired to study the issue. Walker suggested charging for parking west of Main street between May 1 and September 30 starting next year.

The idea is that it’s $2 an hour for all on-street parking west of Main Street from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and $1 an hour for all off-street parking west of Main Street also from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Hackworth said. “October 1 through April 30, parking would remain free. We would still continue to enforce time limits. East of Main Street would be free parking. Free public parking would be available at all times.”

Walker said charging for parking west of Main Street would get more people parking east of Main, freeing up spaces where they’re most needed. It would also push some beach goers to use the actual Silver Beach parking lot, rather than parking above the bluff and dragging their coolers and blankets down to the beach.

Commissioners got some pushback from downtown business owners who said they’ll have a harder time finding employees if those workers have to pay to park. Suggestions included parking passes for downtown employees, and also a program to allow free parking to downtown residents whose dwellings don’t include parking spaces.

Commissioners stressed they can, and will, adjust the parking plan as the need arises. They then approved Walker’s recommendations with an understanding there will be further review as an official ordinance change is brought before them ahead of next year’s launch of paid parking.