SURFSIDE BEACH — Cold or rainy days are to blame for Surfside Beach parking meter revenue dipping below budget expectations through July, according to the company that monitors the town’s meters.
Town officials hired Lanier Parking Solutions this year hoping for easier management and better revenue following losses due to aging and faulty equipment. The meter season, which runs from March 1 to Oct. 31, started well under budget and didn’t catch up despite a couple good months and a busy Fourth of July weekend. Revenue through July was $15,263 below budget for the year.
Mayor Doug Samples said it’s too early to worry about those figures.
“It’s premature until all the numbers are in,” he said. “We’re all hopeful that we’re at least breaking even, if not generating more revenue, but that remains to be seen.”
Equipment failure between 2010 and 2012 led to the loss of nearly $31,300 from the meters, a factor that helped drive the town’s decision to outsource the metering and enforcement of its pay parking in a five-year contract with Lanier Parking Solutions. The losses included estimates for citation revenue since the town could not issue tickets while the meters were out of service.
Mike Kish, project manager for Lanier Parking Meter Service which operates the meters in the town, said in emails to the town administrator that the revenue in March was 50.89 percent under budget, largely due to the below average temperatures during the month.
With 18 days of rain in April revenue was still 19.85 percent under budget.
The prospect didn’t change until May when revenue ticked up, only to fall below expectations again in June.
“The wet conditions played a large part in closing under budget,” Kish said. “It rained 14 out of the 30 days in June. When conditions were dry, the paystation lots were full on a routine basis.”
Weather also played a role in Myrtle Beach’s parking revenue, said David Sebok executive director of the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation.
“The cold, wet spring and early Easter were two factors that reduced public meters and private meters,” he said. “Both were about 20 percent down.”
Sebok said Myrtle Beach recovered to normal when the weather improved, but did not make up for the loss.
Surfside Beach parking committee Gene Maruca and Samples said the meters will be evaluated when the season closes at the end of October. Maruca said it could lead to a decision for fewer meters next year.
“We’re under the impression that at the end of the season they’re [Town Council] gonna evaluate the meters that were profitable and the ones that did nothing and they’ll eliminate the ones that did nothing,” he said.
Eliminating some meters from Ocean Boulevard is something Maruca supports.
“From the very beginning, we had only recommended 30 parking meters as a trial,” he said. “They ended up putting in over 130 and, you know, it was too many to start with. We didn’t need all that.”
Donna Goodrich, who lives outside of town limits but near Surfside Beach, said she wasn’t a fan of the new meters on Ocean Boulevard when they were first installed and suggested Surfside Beach should be renamed “Meter City.”
In March, she said she wouldn’t be visiting Surfside Beach for the summer. This September, she said she stuck to her word and hasn’t visit the town’s beach.
“I’m on the wrong side of U.S. 17,” she said. “I have two condos in Deerfield and we have a house at the end of Holmestown Road. Three properties and I can’t get a parking pass.”
Surfside Beach residents and non-resident property owners are given decals for their cars or golf carts allowing them to park without putting coins in a meter. Goodrich lives outside Surfside Beach proper in unincorporated Horry County.
“So, no I didn’t go to Surfside at all this year,” she said. “You can park for free in Garden City.”
The new meters on Ocean Boulevard were used, though the town still found some driver’s trying to avoid paying.
During Fourth of July, paystation lots operated at full capacity while Ocean Boulevard was about 90 percent full, Kish said. The holiday weekend generated a quarter of paystation revenue for the month of July.
In June, Town Council discussed an ordinance that would limit parking on side streets between Ocean Boulevard and Dogwood Drive. The proposal would only allow cars with Surfside Beach parking decals.
Town Council opted not to take action in the middle of the season.
Maruca said the number of meters on Ocean Boulevard may have detracted from the town’s reputation as the family beach.
“It’s supposed to be a family beach not a money beach,” he said
Parking permits for anyone people outside the town’s borders have not been discussed, but changing the hours and the length of the season have.
While Maruca isn’t sure what Town Council will decide, he said the committee is standing by previous recommendations to shorten the season and start the meters later in the day.
The proposed season would be about two months shorter running March 15 to Sept. 15.
In Myrtle Beach, the season stretches from March 1 to Sept. 30 with meters running 9 a.m. to midnight.
In Surfside Beach, the meters run 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but Maruca said the parking committee would like to see the day start later.
“Seven o’clock at the pier parking lot doesn’t do any justice to the restaurant serving breakfast there,” he said. “If they started at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. it would give the people going in for breakfast a to park, eat and leave instead of having to pay a parking fee to go in for breakfast.”
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.