'Surprise' enforcement of new parking rules on Saturdays hurts businesses and customers.
In its September 23 meeting, Bridgewater Town Council unanimously decided to reinstate free parking at the parking meters on Saturdays!
On behalf of the Bridgewater Farmers Market, I would like to acknowledge the continued support of the Town of Bridgewater over the past 5 years. It has helped us to significantly improve our operations and become a member of Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia, an important step towards future sustainability.
Each week, as regular customers return, we also see many new faces. The Bridgewater Farmers Market had a lively day, this past Saturday, with an estimated 350 – 400 people attending. However, when they left the market, many of our patrons found $15 parking tickets on their windshields.
Anyone who asked the two enforcement officers when and why the parking rules had changed was told that ‘it was in the paper’. Subsequent online research finds two recent articles on parking bylaw enforcement on Southshorenow.ca, none of them mention the change to charging for parking at the King Street or any meters in Bridgewater on Saturdays. A Farmers Market customer who has lived in this town for forty years can’t recall a time he had to pay for parking on Saturday. So, why would anyone bother to check whether they have to pay? Why were King Street businesses that operate on Saturdays, including the Farmers’ Market, not made aware of the change?
Furthermore, after finding such a ‘fertile’ ground for ticket writing on King Street and around the school area, anyone who cares about downtown Bridgewater and Bridgewater’s image would have stopped and decided there had to be something wrong when the overwhelming majority of cars on the street were in violation of the parking by-law. Such a person would have gone into the school- where a major event was going on that had attracted many out of town and out of province visitors - and had the organizers make an announcement; they would have talked to the businesses on King Street and the vendors at the Farmers Market to allow them to inform their customers. At the very least, they would have issued warnings, not tickets.
There is no news release on the Town’s or the Police Department’s websites regarding the parking meter change with respect to King Street and Saturday. When was the decision made and why? The newspaper articles mention the increased focus on enforcement and the subcontracting, but no reason that there was an actual problem of parking violations or that parking violations caused issues. Why was it thought to be the right decision to charge for parking on Saturdays? Why was it thought to be sufficient to inform the unsuspecting public by putting little upside down stickers behind fogged glass? Does the Town significantly depend on the revenue from meters and fines? Even if revenue is the reason behind the change, what happened on Saturday was surely short-sighted and can only have a detrimental effect on the town’s image and its stated desire to build a more vibrant local economy.
Consider this: In the weeks leading up to Christmas, King Street patrons get a parking meter holiday, presumably to encourage them to shop as long as they want and as often as they want. By hitting all those people on Saturday with tickets, they got the opposite message, loud and clear.
Town of Bridgewater, Mayor, Councillors, Police Commissioner, please start to rectify the situation with regard to the upset customers and visitors by cancelling all tickets issued on Saturday. Downtown revitalization is important to all of us who live and work here. Don’t punish the people who are working towards that goal and the customers who are already on side.
Rita Landgraf, Secretary, on behalf of the Bridgewater Farmers Market Association