CAPE ELIZABETH — After almost a year of debate, the Town Council is close to finalizing a decision about charging for parking at Fort Williams Park.

Councilors on Monday adopted changes to the traffic regulations at the park that allow the town to implement pay-and-display procedure.

The council on April 8 also updated a policy that bars town employees from serving on a standing board or committee. 

Councilors discussed charging hourly parking fees at Fort Williams, monitored by a third-party vendor. Last November, Town Manager Matthew Sturgis issued a request for proposals from parking management companies that would provide equipment and agents to enforce pay-and-display parking. Only one company has provided a response to the request as of April 8, Sturgis said.

The town will present its summarized plan for pay-and-display parking at a public hearing for the fiscal year 2020 budget May 6. A vote on parking fees, services and the request for proposals from third-party vendors proposals will be held May 13. 

Charging for parking would “help offset what the taxpayers have been subsidizing for a long time with increasing demands and increasing levels of service required,” Sturgis said in a phone interview this week.

“Basically this change is about creating flexibility around the rules needed at the park,” Councilor Penelope Jordan said at the meeting. “The flexibility would be with the Town Council to address things as needed and to make changes to any traffic patterns based on heavy traffic, and ensuring safety.”

The council drafted an expansion of the parking regulations that would approve an “authorized parking enforcement agent,” such as a third-party vendor to enforce parking fees. The proposal was referred to the ordinance committee for language edits.

The council also drafted a policy statement for the uses of anticipated revenues received from parking fees. The draft states that revenues will be used for “the operational expenses of Fort Williams Park, long-term capital needs of the town, and general municipal operating expenses,” and was referred to further discussion at a future workshop.

These three designated areas are encompassing enough to allow flexibility, yet concrete enough to address the primary concerns, Sturgis said at the meeting. The concerns are that the park be “self-sustaining, but also providing an additional amount of revenue for the community.”

Though these two items were referred for future edits, the pay-and-display debate is nearing a close. In the course of the past year, this topic has been discussed 10 times at meetings and workshops.

“I’d rather do it right than fast,” Council Chairman James Gavin said at the meeting.

Boards, committees

The updated personnel policy approved at the meeting will allow town employees to be appointed to some boards and committees unrelated to their work for the town.

Municipal employees still may not be members of quasi-judicial boards, such as the Planning Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, or the Personnel Appeals Board.

The updated policy officially requires that only Cape Elizabeth residents can serve on standing boards and committees, unless appointed by the council.

Conflicts of interest, including personal and political affiliations, may also now be considered for prospective appointees.

A summarized plan for pay-and-display parking at Fort Williams will be presented in Cape Elizabeth on May 6.

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