Ashley Tempesta had no idea she and her husband had run up $880 worth of parking penalties at the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus between August and November. She found out when they received a notice in the mail Nov. 7 that they were being charged for 16 parking violations.

Tempesta, a Gorham resident and former USM student, is a mountain biker who often uses a popular trailhead near the campus Public Safety Building and hadn’t previously paid to park nearby. She, “as a community member,” was not notified, she said, about the new parking program, fees and penalties that went into effect in August at USM campuses.

“It’s so frustrating. It feels like an unfair practice,” Tempesta said.

“Frustrating” is tame compared to comments on social media about the new policies. Outraged visitors to the Gorham campus have called the new pay-to-park program predatory and say it is eroding the university’s goodwill. Meanwhile, to avoid the fees and penalties, some USM students and staff members are parking on streets in Gorham Village, taking up spaces meant for business customers, a town councilor says.

Tempesta said after she called USM Parking Services about her bill, the university was helpful and reduced the number of violations down to one.

USM is also dismissing fines assessed to attendees at a craft fair held on campus last month that was expected to draw 8,000 people.


“We understand the importance of ensuring a positive experience for event attendees and we apologize for any inconvenience caused by the parking tickets. Please be assured that these tickets are dismissed,” Trystan Henry, USM parking and transportation manager, posted on social media Dec. 14.

The administration “acknowledges that the roll-out of this new system has not been without its challenges,” said USM spokesperson Gina Marie Guadagnino. “To that end, we have formed a committee to reevaluate some of these new policies and procedures, as we are committed to improving the process of parking on campus.”

Parking on the Gorham campus now costs $1 an hour or $36 per year. The fees can be paid on the Honk app or website, and parking signs on campus include QR codes. The university is in the process of “procuring pay stations” as another way to pay for parking, Guadagnino said.

The fine for each unpaid parking fee is $55.

“USM’s Parking Services does not turn a profit, as all revenue generated is being used to sustain the parking operation through maintenance and upkeep,” Guadagnino said.

Parking Revenue Recovery Services Inc. regulates the USM parking program, which involves “video analytics and/or license plate recognition technology” to identify cars and determine lengths of stay, according to a sign posted at a lot off College Avenue. The sign also alerts drivers that there is “no free parking at any time,” that the company is “collecting and processing your personal information” and that unpaid fees will be assigned “to a debt collector.”


Tempesta said no signs are posted at major entrances into the campus and parking lots are “poorly marked.”

Another woman who posted on social media also complained that signs are not visible.

“I’m a student there and last week received 16 parking tickets in the mail backdated throughout the last 3.5 months for parking in a ‘private faculty/staff’ lot by Bailey (Hall) that has no signage with a lot number or a sign saying it’s faculty/staff. They said they won’t waive them, but if I pay $180 they’ll waive the rest of the charge. I have a parking pass but it ‘doesn’t apply’ to this specific lot,” she wrote on Facebook.

Other postings on social media included one from a parent picking up their son from hockey. “I never parked in a spot or even got out of the truck. I called the company to dispute them and they waived one because it was less than 20 minutes. Stuck with the other two. It’s beyond absurd. If I was actually parked I would own it and pay. The system is flawed for sure and seems like we have no recourse either.” Another said: “Ours was for an overnight parking and in no way did anyone park there overnight. Super weird.”

Councilor Rob Lavoie said the town wasn’t notified in advance about the pay-to-park program.

“We as councilors had no forewarning about it,” Lavoie said, adding that the mountain biking community that uses the trail near campus was “hit hard.”

What the town is “seeing now is that more and more staff and students are using public parking on College Avenue and School Street, which is affecting local businesses,” he said.

At the Jan. 2 Town Council meeting, Councilor Philip Gagnon is expected to propose that Chairwoman Suzanne Phillips serve as the town’s liaison to work with the university on parking and other issues that might arise.

A USM parking rules sign on a building at a lot off College Avenue. Robert Lowell / American Journal

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