December 29, 2011

High-tech parking meters on way

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — After a five-month delay, city officials plan to sign a $150,000 contract with a company that will bring high-tech parking meters to Portland once the company's pending ownership change is finalized.

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NEW METERS, BUT WHERE?

Portland has yet to decide where the new parking meters will be installed. The city is buying 18 of them as part of a test program but could eventually replace all 1,525 of its regular meters.

The city is now waiting for the legal work for the transaction to be completed, said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg.

The two-year contract for the new meters is part of a pilot program to help drivers without coins avoid parking tickets and provide relief to store owners who don't like giving change to non-customers. The City Council approved the program in 2010.

The contract will be signed in time for the meters to be installed in the spring, Clegg said.

After putting out a request for proposals, city officials agreed last summer to buy 18 parking kiosks from Florida-based Cale Parking Systems USA.

The deal was put on hold in August, after searches by federal agents in Oregon and at the company's headquarters in Tampa, Fla. The FBI has investigated allegations that a company executive gave bribes or kickbacks to an official in Portland, Ore., in exchange for city contracts, the last of which was worth $20 million.

Cale Parking Systems USA distributes parking meters for the manufacturer, Cale Group, which is based in Sweden.

In response to the public perception problems created by the FBI investigation, Cale Group announced last month that it will buy Cale Parking Systems USA and create a new subsidiary, Cale America, which will provide parking terminal services to customers across the United States.

Cale Group also announced that it had named a new president of its U.S. operations, Edward Olender, who previously was president of Cale Systems Inc. Canada. Olender succeeded George Levey, who was accused by the FBI of giving checks and gifts to the Portland, Ore., parking manager in exchange for steering contracts to the company.

Neither Levey nor Cale has been charged with a crime.

The new subsidiary is in the "best position to ensure quality control from top to bottom, institutionalize the Cale Group values throughout the company, and improve efficiency and customer service," the company said in a statement about the ownership change.

Each of Cale's new kiosks will serve about 10 parking spaces and allow parking customers to use debit and credit cards instead of coins. The kiosks are part of a pilot project that will allow the city to test the equipment and get feedback from the public, said John Peverada, Portland's parking manager.

The kiosks will cover a total of 125 to 150 spaces, depending on where the city installs them, Peverada said.

If the experiment is successful, most if not all of Portland's remaining meters could eventually be replaced by kiosks. The city now has 1,525 meters.

Portland collects about $2 million a year from parking meters and about the same amount from fines. Because of the convenience they offer motorists, the new parking meters will likely increase revenue for the city, Peverada said, while the number of parking tickets will probably decline.

That would be a good outcome, Peverada said. "We are not here to write tickets," he said.

Cale was selected over two competitors, including another global parking meter company, Parkeon, which offered slightly less expensive meters. The city review committee decided that Cale's product and support are superior, Peverada said.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@mainetoday.com

 

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