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Parking garage talks

The Oxford Downtown Parking Advisory Commission will meet every two weeks, rather than once a month, to discuss the ins and outs of a possible parking garage in Oxford’s near future.

The commission meets monthly on the first Friday of the month at City Hall. Earlier this summer, it was suggested that three members form a special committee to research and hammer out details about whether or not Oxford needs a parking garage for starters, and if determined it does, examine such questions like how to pay for one, where to put it and how to fund ongoing maintenance and operation.

However, Commission Chair Tom Sharpe told the commission Friday he felt it would be better if the entire commission tackled the issue.

“We had some members express a desire to be a part of the committee, but by law, we’re limited on how many can be on the committee,” Sharpe said. “The committee decided it would be better to work as a whole commission on this.”

To keep from the monthly meetings from lasting two or more hours, the commission will recess from its’ regular monthly meeting to a work session meeting two weeks later.

“We can’t vote at the work session meetings but we aren’t really at a point where we are ready to vote on anything,” Sharpe said.

The commission agreed to meet every two weeks to work on extended downtown parking, whether that winds up as a parking garage or additional paid parking.

Mayor Pat Patterson said the commission should not feel rushed to make any decisions.

“Thanks to the parking meters, we’ve solved many of our problems about not having enough parking available,” Patterson said. “The complaints we used to get, while they haven’t stopped, they have drastically been reduced. What it will look like in two years, I don’t know.”

Sharpe agreed.

“We have managed to move those who should not be parking all day on the Square out of the premium parking spots,” Sharpe said. “But we now have some issues with people parking in churches.”

Several churches around the Square are considering putting in gates to keep people from parking, Sharpe said.

Sharpe said one point the commission needs to discuss with city leaders is whether or not the plan to eliminate the outer parking areas on the Square to allow for a more pedestrian friendly Square.

Patterson said to build a garage, a breezeway and to convert the outer parking areas is something almost everyone would like to see, but it comes with a high price tag.

“We’re looking at $14 million,” he said. “About $9 million is just for the garage.”

If the city moved forward with wanting to green-up the outer parking areas, the need for a parking garage would escalate quickly; however Patterson said any type of plan like that is years down the road.

In other business Friday, Parking Manager Matt Davis reported parking meters took in a record amount of money in August. According to Davis, $60,047 was collected at the meters during August. The new phone app, Passport, brought in $422 since it went live Aug. 17.

“The app is really nice, for those using it and for us,” Davis said. “I’m sure as the word gets out more people will start using it.”

Officers issued 1,028 tickets in August and collected about $4,600 in parking ticket fines.