Don’t be surprised if you see bags over downtown Midland parking stations; they’re temporarily disabled.
Council carried a recorded 7-2 vote during last night’s regular meeting, agreeing to give Midland businesses and residents free parking while they sort the contentious problem out one more time.
The vote itself was to allow free parking in all lots and streets of the downtown core while staff explore alternative options for making the pay-per-plate system work, like in other areas which have similar parking stations such as the simple pay-and-display system Barrie provides.
Coun. Cher Cunningham had the coolest head in the hour-long virtual meeting, who not only avoided the emotional rhetoric which carried many councillors in response to vocal business owners leading up to the discussion, but also provided the possible solution to simply ask if reprogramming the devices was an option.
With affirmation by staff, Cunningham replied, “It is the complication of the parking that is the problem, not the cost.”
Cunningham also tried to bring up the point at the start of the discussion, but was overlooked by a quick-drawing chair Deputy Mayor Mike Ross who repeatedly missed seeing her request to speak card.
The vote for temporary free parking wasn’t unanimous however, as both Mayor Stewart Strathearn and Coun. Jim Downer voted nay.
Council members strongly voiced their opposition to nearly everything on the conversation of 2022 parking rates for annual, monthly and hourly rates as a gesture to the community.
CAO David Denault warned council, and by extension members of the viewing public, of the consequences of eliminating paid parking downtown Midland “amounting to about $500,000 of relief.”
“You saw it in the budget process,” said Denault. “If you want to recover $500,000, you would have to do – as an example – a 33 per cent increase on fees at the (North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre) and eliminate the additional shift for winter maintenance.”
Ross took the words to heart, floating a request for council to pass a motion that would instantly tax all residents of Midland for $250,000 as half of that amount in response to half the tax year remaining.
Coun. Cody Oschefski challenged mayoral candidate Bill Gordon – the most vocal councillor at the meeting – if he would campaign on that instant tax, to which Gordon responded he would.
Gordon considered the $250,000 idea as an experiment which would definitively prove whether it was the parking issue that was driving resident complaints to not shop downtown or if it was due to another factor, citing recovery from the pandemic as an example.
The matter became moot once council directed staff to provide a report at an upcoming meeting in July or August which would explore options to fix the broken system while not putting to waste the expensive machines.
Following the council meeting, Gordon noticed that a social media post by local business Georgian Bakery had quickly placed a garbage bag over the parking station beside its downtown business, gleefully spreading the content with council and staff who also shared a laugh.
The parking system update staff report is available in full in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.
Further information on pay-by-plate parking in downtown Midland is available on the Town of Midland website.
Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.
Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca