FREE PARKING NOT IN THE BAG THIS YEAR

bagged-meters-500x375If free parking comes to Red Bank for the holidays, it’ll cost somebody. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In past years it’s been a rubber stamp: Red Bank bags up its parking meters and lets shoppers and visitors save some change in the weeks leading up to the end-of-year holidays.

Not this year.

“Right now it’s very difficult to tell somebody you’ve got to take a furlough day so we can give free parking,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

After making the annual, perfunctory request to suspend meter fees for the last two weeks of December, Nancy Adams, executive director of the business-promoting Red Bank RiverCenter, was sent away with a suggestion: find a way for the autonomous agency to come up with some sort of compensation to Red Bank in exchange for free parking.

Menna suggested RiverCenter do something along the lines of what the Monmouth Boat Club, a tax-exempt non-profit, does each year, and coincidentally did Monday night: hand over a check to be deposited into the borough’s bank account.

“In the past we’ve always been very supportive of this,” Councilman Mike DuPont said of the meter moratorium. “In these times, we’re working to look a little bit more closely, be it contributions, or something like that, from RiverCenter.”

Facing a shortfall in parking revenues, the borough earlier this year increased meter rates and brought back fees for Saturday parking, which had been suspended for a year. Considering the circumstances, DuPont said 2010 is not the year to give free parking away for free.

Earlier this year, the council denied a request from Riverview Medical Center to offer free parking for its annual Pink Bank celebration.

So what’s the magic number to get the council to give its OK?

Menna won’t say. But the expected loss from meter revenue for the two-week suspension proposal, between December 14 and 28, is around $26,000.

The borough typically offers free parking at the end of the year to entice visitors away from the malls and outlets and into Red Bank for holiday shopping.

“We are looking to see if we can make the downtown district competitive with malls, where they have free parking,” Adams said. “We also know of the financial situation everyone is in.”

Adams said she’ll confer with the agency’s board of directors to try and come up with some sort of plan that will satisfy the council in order to keep the annual tradition alive.