Surfside Beach moves to outsource beach parking, add meters to Ocean Boulevard

On the heels of a recommendation by the town’s parking committee, Town Council members voted unanimously to move towards outsourcing the metering and enforcement of paid parking in Surfside Beach.

Leaders directed Town Administrator Micki Fellner to enter into contract negotiations with Lanier Parking Solutions, which manages the beach parking in Myrtle Beach and Horry County.

The company presented its plan for parking in Surfside Beach about 10 days before Town Council agreed to move forward with the company.

Fellner explained the town does not need to put the parking function out for bid because it is a professional service. She said Lanier Parking Solutions could be hired the same way the town selects an attorney or auditor.

Harry Kohlmann, chairman of the parking committee, said the recommendation was based on the need for new equipment and the loss of revenue. He said the estimated loss, likely a result of broken parking meters, was $22,000 between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 fiscal years and nearly $9,300 for this year.

“This is what we have to do,” he said. “We’re not able to manage it.”

Purchasing new pay meters or pay stations with increased technology that allow credit card and cell phone payments, would cost $156,970, according to Lanier.

Gross revenue, exclusively from the meters, is a projected $207,857. That projection does not include any revenue from parking tickets. Lanier would expect a $23,000 profit from managing parking in the town.

Councilwoman Beth Kohlmann was concerned about people actually using the metered parking lots because people tend to park on the grass on Ocean Boulevard for free.

That concern dissolved when Town Council authorized Fellner to purchase additional meters for Ocean Boulevard, but requested that she return to council with a specific cost. Fellner estimated the cost would not exceed $117,500.

To place meters in the town owned right-of-way on Ocean Boulevard, she said would require marking spaces and likely landscaping – which would both ensure the right-of-way is safe for cars to park and set up where cars cannot park.

The landscaping would be completed by the public works department and is an estimated $25,000. Council has not yet authorized that expenditure.

There have been no discussions about changing the rates for paid parking, which costs $1 per hour. The length of the season running March 1 to Oct. 31 also has not been discussed. The parking meter season in Surfside Beach is about month longer than the surrounding municipalities like Myrtle Beach which takes the meters down on Sept. 30.

Ron Saunders, member of the parking committee, said the committee does plan to look at the hours when the meters are active to see if there should be changes, particularly to help the restaurants with the dinner crowds.