By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Downtown should be a little cleaner from now on.
The City Council last night approved Mayor James Fiorentini’s request to tap the city’s paid parking account to pay for a new, part-time worker whose job will be picking up trash in the Goecke Parking Garage on Merrimack Street and in public parking lots downtown where people are being charged to park.
The council approved the use of $3,860 from the paid parking account to fund the position through the end of the fiscal year June 30. The mayor said he will include $19,000 in next year’s city budget to pay for the position for a full year.
“What people have been telling us is that if we are going to make them pay to park in the garage and make them walk a little further, that we need to make the garage clean and safe,” the mayor said in a prior interview.
Councilors quickly and unanimously approved the money with no commentary or questions.
Last summer, the city received a $100,000 up-front payment from SP Plus Municipal Services to manage the paid parking program, which was initially projected to generated about $400,00 in its first year. Recently, however, the city indicated collections have been lower than expected and the mayor’s office floated the idea of raising the parking fees.
Fiorentini said there’s about $15,000 left in the paid parking account. He said the money has been used primarily to clean and remove snow from the garage and downtown lots. But he said some money has also been used to reconfigure parking areas on Bailey Boulevard; to move some parking meters around; to pay the city’s parking consultant and several temporary “parking ambassadors” who were hired last summer to help the public use the new meters; and to purchase flowers for downtown.
The remaining $15,000, he said, will be used for the new cleaning position and to buy and hang more flower baskets this summer.
Until recently, the mayor said DPW workers and a private cleaning company had been used to clean and maintain the Goecke garage and downtown’s public parking lots.
The new cleaning worker, the mayor said, is also being trained to use the city’s Green Machine sidewalk and garage sweeper.
In the Goecke Garge and in downtown lots, drivers pay 50 cents per hour to park or purchase $15-per-month permits reserved for people who live or work downtown. The paid program is Monday through Friday. Street parking is free and limited to two hours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Washington, Essex, Granite and Wingate streets. Drivers pay 50 cents per hour from 3 to 8 p.m. on those streets. The paid parking program began last August.