Galena City Council considers paid parking downtown

GALENA, Ill. — Galena City Council members this week expressed interest in implementing paid parking downtown, with conditions to keep free parking options available for residents and employees.

Council members voted, 6-0, to pursue paid parking under several conditions. These included that the system would offer some preference to local residents, generate a positive return on investment and receive approval from Galena Downtown Business Association.

“It’s time for us to make it a more favorable parking experience for visitors,” Council Member Marc McCoy said after the meeting. “We’re trying to do this, though, to also benefit the citizens of Galena, as well as the merchants of Galena and their employees.”

Council members voted in fall 2021 to issue a request for proposals for the implementation of multi-meter parking stations and enforcement solutions downtown in response to concerns about a lack of available parking. The city received three proposals by the Jan. 28 deadline.

While the council did not take action on any of those proposals this week, members agreed not to pursue kiosks or similar pay stations for parking.

Council Member Pam Bernstein said the cost to install each kiosk could be around $10,000, and the city could need up to 20 kiosks.

“We’re also pretty much united in not liking the look of having (kiosks) on our historic Main Street,” she said.

Instead, council members hope to use a mobile parking app. McCoy said an app would make it easy to adjust parking rates and offer free parking for city residents.

“You would register in some form at City Hall, and then every time you’re going to park somewhere, you just put in your app that this is Marc McCoy, parking in spot number 12, and I’ve got two hours free parking,” he said.

The city currently has three paid parking lots at a rate of $10 per day, along with two free lots. All other on-street downtown parking is free, generally with a three-hour limit.

Mayor Terry Renner said he is not convinced paid parking would alleviate the problem.

“It doesn’t make any more stalls, it doesn’t make any more parking lots, … and you don’t necessarily have to move your car. You could sit there all day,” he said. “And yet, there is money being made, … (but) is it worth the cost? All of that has to be taken into consideration.”

McCoy said that if paid parking were implemented downtown, employees could use free remote parking lots, leaving downtown spots open for visitors.

Any paid parking, if implemented, would not take effect this summer.

“We’re going to go at it slowly,” Council Member Robert Hahn said. “Maybe by next year, hopefully, we will have a process for going forward.”

City Administrator Mark Moran said city staff will develop a proposal that meets the council’s criteria. Council members also hope to meet with Galena Downtown Business Association members to get their input.