OCEAN CITY — While efforts to tweak the resort’s multi-million-dollar parking system continue, it is becoming apparent Ocean City is leaning toward a single entity or individual as a parking authority.
In the interest of taking a broad look at Ocean City’s complicated municipal parking system including a potential expansion of paid parking in certain areas, Mayor Rick Meehan earlier this year appointed a task force at the request of the council. The task force, directed by noted parking consultant Dan Kupferman along with City Engineer Terry McGean, has met three times over the last several weeks.
In the meantime, there appears to be support for creating a separate department, or perhaps a smaller department within an existing one, to act as a parking authority for the town. Ocean City’s current municipal parking system is complicated to be sure with paid on-street parking in certain downtown areas, paid municipal lots throughout town and, of course, the Inlet lot, which is somewhat an entity all its own.
Currently, McGean, among the many hats he wears for the city, is the de facto parking guru and works closely with the third-party provider, which provides the paid-by-plate parking system, but parking in general falls under several different departments. For example, Public Works maintains the various lots, the Ocean City Police Department largely handles enforcement and the engineering department handles administration.
Although it is not an entirely new idea, during a budget work session this week, some on the council expressed a desire for a unified parking authority, either a separate department or an individual.
“Parking is a $4 million endeavor in this town,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “As it becomes more complicated and because it is such a source of revenue, I think we might need to manage it tighter. I feel as though we should have one person in charge of all of the components of parking.”
Dare made a motion for the city manager to meet with the various department heads including engineering, finance and the police department, and come back with some recommendations for creating a parking authority. He said McGean currently handles the job with aplomb, but has much more on his plate. He also said the recommendation might come back to leave the parking oversight as it is.
“The city engineer is the consultant for all of these other departments,” he said. “I’d just like to explore some recommendations. Maybe it turns out to be fine the way it is.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed and said increased enforcement could be a key component of any recommendation for an independent parking authority.
“I’d like to take a closer look at enforcement,” she said. “We’ve seen how successful enforcing other things has been. Even the parking consultant recommended this. We have a $4 million parking operation and it’s run by several different departments.”
Councilman Mark Paddack agreed the creation of a parking authority should be explored, if only to ease the burden on McGean.
“It probably all shouldn’t fall on Terry exclusively,” he said. “There is definitely room for heavier enforcement out there.”
After considerable debate, the council directed City Manager Doug Miller to craft some recommendations. In the meantime, McGean said the parking task force will likely meet at least one more time next month before coming up with a larger recommendation on the possible expansion of paid parking.