Surfside Beach considers parking meter changes

The parking committee in Surfside Beach will be discussing the possibility of hiring a company to run parking meters in town.

Lanier Parking Solutions, which manages the beach parking in both Myrtle Beach and Horry County, presented options for Surfside Beach’s metered parking lots during a Town Council meeting Tuesday morning.

Following the presentation, the parking committee was directed to work with town staff to create a proposal for Town Council’s consideration.

Under Lanier’s proposal, the company would install new parking meters, be in charge of collecting the funds and ticketing cars that either don’t pay to park or allow meters to expire.

Town Council had discussed options for operating and maintaining parking meters during budget discussions in June, agreeing to spend $30,000 to purchase two pay stations to replace a pair of broken ones.

Parking woes didn’t end there though. Meters periodically failed throughout the summer. As a result, revenue for the town was lost. Since money couldn’t be collected, drivers couldn’t be ticketed so citation revenues dropped.

The town had $8 in revenue from the pier parking lot in 2012, down from $7,264 in 2011.

That was parking committee member John Ard’s main concern. He asked Scott Diggs, with Lanier, how the company would know the meter wasn’t working and how quickly it could be repaired.

Diggs said the machines Lanier would install send text messages to the company alerting management to any issues, whether it’s an equipment failure or an attempt to enter the money vault. Additionally, he said there are spare parts on hand and most issues are fixed in 30 minutes.

Purchasing new pay meters or pay stations with increased technology would allow credit card and cellphone payments. That investment would cost Surfside Beach $156,970.

Gross revenue, exclusively from the meters, is projected to be $207,857.

That estimation does not include any revenue from parking tickets. Lanier would expect a $23,000 profit from managing parking in the town.

Councilwoman Beth Kohlmann worried about the utilization of the paid parking spaces, saying most people park on the shoulder of Ocean Boulevard for free.

Diggs suggested implementing time limits.

Ordering and installing the meters takes time and Diggs said his company would need a decision at the start of next year in order to have meters running in time for the tourist season.

Mayor Doug Samples said there was no guarantee the answer would come that quickly and didn’t know when the parking committee would have a proposal for Town Council.

“That’s their timeline. That’s not the town’s timeline,” Samples said.

“What I mean to say is we were happy to have them give the presentation, which was very well done. But, the town will move as fast as we can and as slow as we need to.”

During the meeting, Samples said something needs to be done because of the equipment failures, but said he doesn’t have any clue which direction the parking committee or the Town Council would take.

“The committee needs to do due diligence and council will await their input,” he said.

“It’s important that we get it right rather than do it quickly.”

If Town Council decides to outsource the parking, Samples said it likely would need to be placed out for bid, though he said Lanier could have an advantage because of the company’s presence locally.