WHITMAN — The Board of Selectmen have asked Town Administrator Frank Lynam to circulate a questionnaire among downtown businesses to gauge the parking situation and the effect it has on business volume.
Lynam will also be drawing up a list of holiday weekends on which he intends to restrict tollbooth fundraisers due to the traffic tie-ups that hurt business. Both issues will be discussed again at the board’s next meeting at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, June 30.
“I received some comments about parking,” Lynam said Tuesday, June 16. “We have a number of businesses downtown and, while we have municipal lots, they’re not always conveniently located to the businesses.”
As a result, they find employees using on-street spaces, typically intended for customer use, as all-day parking. Lynam also noted that most downtown business post time limits for parking during their weekday business hours.
“I’m suggesting we consider a two-hour parking limit,” he said. “It should be ample time for anyone to do business downtown, and more importantly, it prevents people from parking their car there all day.”
Enforcement is the main concern with that, as there is no budget for a meter maid, according to Lynam, and parking meters were not an option officials want to consider. Police Chief Scott Benton said the friendly approach would work better than meters, too.
“You’re going to get the people who decide, ‘I’ll pay … I’m good with that. I’ll keep that spot and I’ll pay and have it all day,’” he said.
Parking tickets used by the department would also have to be changed to reflect the time limits and applicable fines.
“From my personal experience, I have never had a problem finding a parking spot downtown,” Benton said. “I don’t own a business there, either. I’m not saying some people don’t experience that.”
Selectman Scott Lambiase said a lack of signs directing people to the municipal lots is also a problem.
“This might not be something for government to get into,” he said. “[Businesses] should self-police it if its their own employees that are … creating this problem and deal with it.”
Selectman Dan Salvucci applauded businesses such as Duval’s and McGuiggan’s Pub that provide off-street parking for employees.
“One of the things we want in Whitman is to be customer-friendly,” Salvucci said.
Selectman Brian Bezanson suggested the questionnaire to determine the extent of concern among business owners and Benton said he will ask his regular downtown detail officers on Saturdays to be attentive to the issue and report to him.
Selectmen Chairman Carl Kowalski also noted that the complaints he has heard about tollbooth fundraisers’ effect on parking availability stems from tollbooth organizers parking spaces all day, which drives customers away.
The tollbooth restrictions, meanwhile, would apply to holidays when downtown shopping traffic is heaviest such as Easter, Mothers and Fathers days, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“It has a significant impact on traffic and it also hurts the merchants that are trying to do business during those times,” Lynam said of tollbooths on holiday weekends. “I think stores market during those days and putting a group in the center kind of makes it difficult to work.”
The Board asked Lynam to come back next meeting with a new application form listing the excluded holidays he was considering and to post them on the town’s website.
The Knights of Columbus hold an annual tollbooth on Columbus Day weekend as a tie-in with its namesake explorer.
“We might find that there aren’t as many that we would want to decline as we think right now,” Kowalski said.
Benton said the tollbooths are assigned a police detail for safety and that there have been no accidents related to them.
“Traffic is going to back up,” he said. “It kind of goes with the fundraisers.”