Katie Cassavant and Jason Smegal, of Pittsfield, Mass., inspect one of the pay-and-display solar-powered parking meters the village of Lake George installed several years ago along Canada St. Lake George Village trustees are considering issuing courtesy warning tickets for motorists who overstay their time limits — which is expected to substantially cut revenue. The trustees are also considering raising the fines for parking violations, a move which could partially offset the lost ticket revenue.
Parking in the Village of Lake George can be a frustrating experience — even more so if you receive a ticket for staying a few minutes past the meter’s time limit.
The village trustees are now seeking to make parking a little more pleasant experience by issuing overtime courtesy warning notices, rather than parking tickets that turn a $1 stay into a $15 hassle.
They are also considering hiking the fees for unpaid parking tickets — in part to offset anticipated lost revenue from issuing courtesy notices.
Years ago, Lake George had a policy that gave motorists a little leeway, with parking compliance officers issuing warning tickets when meters ran out, then they’d return in 30 minutes or so to check on whether the driver fed the meter more money in the meantime. If no more money was deposited, they’d be facing a fine.
This leniency ended in 2008 — when the courtesy warnings were eliminated.
Monday Jan. 13, the trustees talked about reinstating the courtesy notices, an initiative suggested by councilman John Root who said the village could be a little more accommodating to tourists.
Mayor Robert Blais warned that issuing courtesy warning could cost the village $100,000 per year of its $500,000 or so annual parking income.
In response, trustees Root and Ray Perry both suggested that courtesy parking notices could be issued only on one or two days per week or during limited times.
Also, Blais warned that some people would switch warning tickets from one vehicle to another to gain extra time or ward off the enforcement officers for a while.
One former initiative, to allow locals to park on the streets at no charge, caused problems as the parking spaces in front of retail stores were clogged by local vehicles, leaving too few spaces for tourists who were likely to shop in local stores and support the merchants, Blais said.
“It was a holocaust,” Blais said.
The mayor also noted that some drivers seeking to park all day have figured out that it was cheaper and more convenient to pay the overtime fine of $15 than pay the standard parking lot charge of $2 per hour and deal with feeding the meters. He suggested that the overtime fine be raised to at least $25 before this summer.
“In most communities, the fines are far higher than Lake George,” he said, citing overtime fines of $25 in Lake Placid and higher in Saratoga, Glens Falls and Albany. Fines for parking in front of hydrants or in No Parking zones are typically $75, he said.
Faced with many choices, changes that could shrink revenue, cause problems or annoy tourists, the trustees deferred decisions until the February board meeting.
In other business, the village board:
• Entertained a proposal for new terms in a contract with the Lake George Chamber of Commerce for providing personnel for the village’s Visitors Center. Now, the Chamber pays $6,000 annually for “rent” and $5,000 annually toward utilities — to be able to pass out brochures. Chamber officials suggested that the rent be reduced to $1 per year. Trustee Ray Perry suggested that the village make a counter-offer of $4,000 per year — although the Chamber provides personnel at their expense and Warren County pays the village $25,000 for the visitor center’s operation.
• Heard from Mayor Blais that state archeologists are enthusiastic about having ancient weapons they unearthed near Million Dollar Beach put on display in a glass case at the visitor’s center. Arrangements are now being made to showcase the arrow heads, stone knives and spear heads that are up to 8,000 years old.
• Was told that Jason Carmody, until this week the village First Assistant Fire Chief, quit the fire department. The board approved the promotion of Second Assistant Chief Paul Sullivan into the First Assistant position in satisfaction of a state requirement to keep the post filled. The motion was rescinded in a special board meeting this week, however, when Carmody re-joined the department — and he resumed his prior post.
• Heard that St. James Episcopal Church was approved recently to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places — the second such designation occurring in 2013. The other was the same historic status for the Old Delaware & Hudson Railroad Station, now serving as a gift shop for the Lake George Steamboat Co. across from the Steel Pier on Beach Road.
• Was presented with the book “Low-Impact Development & Sustained Stormwater Management” authored by Thomas Cahill. Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky advised them to read it and keep it on hand. Blais praised Navitsky for his ongoing work to protect the lake’s water quality.
•Was informed that the crosswalk across Canada St. in front of the school was approved by the state and it would cost $35,000 to $40,000 to paint the lines and make the curb cuts.
• Voted to proceed with streetscape enhancement on Canada St. from Amherst St. north to Marine Village motel. The upgrades include new sidewalks and curbs, replacement trees and new brick pavers. The work is to match the streetscape improvements accomplished last year downtown in the village.
• Decided to choose a new delegate to the Warren County Youth Board to replace Sharon Sano, who had served in that post for many years.
• Endorsed a parade that kicks off Lake George Winter Carnival on Feb. Saturday 1. The procession is set for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
• Scheduled the next regular village board meeting for 6 p.m. Monday Feb. 10
• Discussed the rejection by downtown commercial property owners of the proposed Business Improvement District that called for a new tax of 51 cents per thousand dollars of property valuation, with the revenue to be spent on tourism, event promotion and streetscape upgrades.
With local officials noting the proposal was rejected due to the additional layer of taxes, Trustee Root said he had suggested that the District operations be funded entirely with Bed Tax revenue. He and Mayor Blais said the BID formation process had set in motion new communication between local merchants. Root warned that a B.I.D. or an similar entity was still needed in the village, because a new mayor succeeding Blais might not be as business friendly as Blais.
“The village’s next mayor may not have the interest or skills you have to wear the promotional hat you do,” Root told the mayor.