meters_irMeters would have to be fed for two additional hours on weekdays under the plan.

With the clock running down on his decree of free Saturday parking downtown, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna is proposing to add two additional hours of meter enforcement from Monday to Friday.

The move, which comes even as Menna is also urging retailers to keep their doors open later, is prompted by a sharp drop in parking revenue, he tells redbankgreen.

“We’ve eliminated revenues on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s a shortfall,” Menna says. “We have to equalize it by extending hours into the evening.”

The idea, like many proposed tinkerings with parking rates here, is likely to engender heated debate as a public hearing on the matter scheduled for next Monday approaches. Many downtown merchants blame $38 overtime parking fines for driving away customers.

A proposed ordinance introduced last week says the 9a-to-8p enforcement, amended from the current 9a-to-6p regime, would be in effect in at all metered spots Monday through Saturday. But Menna tells us he intends to maintain free Saturday parking, which he unveiled last January during an economic summit held to brainstorm ideas for jump-starting a stalled local economy.

“At this point, there no plan” to reinstate Saturday collections, he says.

But Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, the quasi-governmental agency charged with promoting downtown business interests, said late last Wednesday that she had been informed free that free Saturdays would end as scheduled on December 31.

If true, “that’s not good news,” she said. “We’re trying to work with the borough, and we were hoping Saturday would remain free.”

Menna said the decline in meter collections is “in the tens of thousands” of dollars from last year.

But how much of that is the result of giving away parking on Saturdays, and how much is attributable to general economic conditions, could not be immediately determined last week. Borough CFO Frank Mason tells redbankgreen that meters are emptied once a week, generating $8,000 to $10,000 in revenue.

Borough officials, in crafting the current-year budget, anticipated that parking fees would fall below $830,000 this year, from $896,000 last year.

Meanwhile, one merchant is said to be floating the idea of doubling meter rates in order to force store, restaurant and office workers into nearby lots, thereby freeing up spaces for shoppers, who he believes won’t mind paying extra for the convenience.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for the next council meeting on December 7 at 6:30p.

Here’s the ordinance with the proposed changes: 2009-53ordinance