City Considers Options For Parking Meters In Downtown Fort Smith

FORT SMITH (KFSM)—The city of Fort Smith is in the early stages of deciding what to do with the parking meters downtown. This comes after the majority of downtown businesses said they want to get rid of them in an online survey.

Joseph Martin and his wife have lived in the city for three years and said they agree.

“We struggle[d] just to find a quarter to pay for the one hour we were walking down here,” Martin said.

City Administrator Carl Geffken said the parking meter rates have been the same since 1985 and right now they are operating at a deficit. He said they are considering raising the prices or eliminating meters all together.

“Everything's on the table and we're looking at that to make sure it is economically self-sufficient,” Geffken said.

In a survey recorded by the Downtown Business Association, 71 percent of businesses who participated think it’s time to allow free parking but limited parking. Sake manager Josh Dodd told 5NEWS this would help especially during lunch hours.

“It seems to me that just getting rid of them altogether would open up a lot more for business,” Dodd said.

Geffken said smart meters or one central meter are also options and so is increasing parking fines.

“They’re $5 currently, which is the cheapest anywhere around this area,” he said. “I know in Northwest Arkansas they’re $25. We wouldn’t be going that high.”

Geffken said at the end of the day, the city is taking into consideration what businesses and their customers want.

“We need to see and plan out what's the best,” he said. “We'll present that to the board for their consideration, but that'll be sometime in the future.”

Geffen said the parking meters generate about $125,000 annually, but they cost more to maintain, creating about a $25,000 deficit.