Ask many downtown business owners what one of the biggest problems facing them is, and you’ll hear a common answer: not enough parking.
“We’re losing customers because they have to park so far away,” said Connie Martin, co-owner of the Hallmark store in town.
A dozen or so business owners gathered in the city council chambers after Tuesday’s meeting to discuss how to make the situation better.
Martin continued: “It’s very difficult to have a retail business downtown if you don’t have the parking lots. There’s enormous frustration among my customers when they keep driving by and there’s no parking.”
Mayor Gary Revier said, “The city has gotten a lot of complaints about employees parking in spaces meant for customers. Employees will park right in front of a neighbor’s store, then leave their cars there all day.”
Revier said, “We’ve spent a lot of time and money over the years developing municipal parking lots, and they’re underutilized.”
“In February, we talked to business people about their employees not using the municipal parking lots,” said Redwood Falls Police Chief Mark Dressen.
“We don’t want to bring back the two-hour parking limit,” said Dressen. “The salons don’t like it because some of their customers need more than that, and other businesses need more than two hours.”
“We used to have parking meters, but it cost so much to have a cop assigned to them, it wasn’t worth it,” said Revier.
Martin said, “There are six spaces out front, and people will park sideways to take up two spaces.”
Martin said she’ll leave notes on cars, but the same cars will be back in the same spaces the next day.
“I’ve had people come in and scream at me that they can park their cars wherever they want 24/7, and that they just might,” she said.
Revier said, “Try talking to the driver, and if they blow you off, Chief Dressen and I could write them a letter warning them the city could go to fines or the two-hour limit if things don’t get better.”
Larry Leske, owner of GuidePoint Pharmacy, said, “We have lots of turnover in our lots. The one five-minute parking space seems to be working reasonably well.”
However, Leske added, “Customers complain, ‘I’ve driven around the block four times and there’s no place to park.’ We’ve been fighting this for years.”
Page 2 of 3 - Gene Swede, owner of a hearing aid center, pointed out that many of his clients are elderly, and need parking that’s close.
Another problem is apartment-dwellers parking out in the streets, taking up space that could be used by customers for downtown businesses.
“The landlords need to be telling their tenants where to park,” said Nan Kaufenberg, of Scenic City Reality.
Dave Messer, owner of an appliance sales and repair business downtown, said, “I think it’s up to the business owners to take care of it on their own.”
Messer noted that only a small percentage of downtown business owners showed up at the public meeting, indicating they don’t consider it to be a serious issue for them.
“We have to publicize that there is a problem that people need to be aware of,” said Revier. “Several businesses hope to come or relocate to downtown, and customers won’t come here if there’s a shortage of parking.”
Revier said, “Our goal for the night is to see if we can find a way to self-police the problem, since the city doesn’t want to assign an officer to monitor the downtown city parking full-time.”
In other city news, the council:
• Approved a $305,940 plan to reconstruct Quality Drive.
The project includes new bituminous pavement having a 10-ton design, concrete curb and gutters, storm sewer system edge drains, driveway pavement, and turf restoration.
• Approved a $323,000 plan for seal coating city streets on the north side of town, and redoing several city-owned driveways and parking lots this summer.
• Approved a $17,452 bid from Vick Construction to rebuilt the trail steps at Alexander Ramsey Park near the Zeb Gray Shelter and behind the falls.
The current steps are made of railroad ties that are in serious disrepair.
• Approved a $24,866 request from the Redwood Area Community Center for new computer network storage and server replacement.
• Approved a $10,000 agreement to the engineering firm of Bolton and Monk, Inc. to design the 2013 Notchweed Drive Development project.
• Approved a $54,269 bid from McLaughlin and Schultz, Inc., of Marshall to repair and resurface the parking lot of the Redwood Falls Fire Department’s fire hall.
• Accepted a request from NU-Telecom to close the 100 block of E. 2nd St. on June 20 for the firm’s annual customer appreciation day.
• Approved a arrangement to have local law enforcement and emergency crews become part of the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response system, which would require all departments to acquire new radio equipment.
• As part of the above, the previous generation of radio communication equipment was declared surplus property.
Page 3 of 3 - • Accepted the resignation of retiring Lead Water, Waste-water operator Phil Johanneck, as of July 31, 2013.