Council extends two hour free downtown parking

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By Nick Seebruch
Council extends two hour free downtown parking
Seaway News file photo.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council voted to extend two hour free parking at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 14.

Council approved in June to allow two hour complimentary parking in Cornwall’s downtown until Sept. 14 as a way to stimulate the downtown economy and ease the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Administration prepared a report that included feedback from downtown businesses on the impact on the municipal budget of continuing the free parking program until the end of the year.

The Cornwall Chamber of Commerce sent out a survey to 65 downtown businesses asking for their opinions on downtown parking.

A little less than half of the businesses, 27, responded. Of the respondents to the survey, 93 per cent felt that the free parking program had a positive impact on their business, and 100 per cent wanted to see the program continue.

The stance of downtown businesses ran in conflict with the position of City administration, who wanted to see downtown parking rates return to normal.

In total, management of parking costs the City of Cornwall close to $600,000 a year, or roughly one per cent of the annual tax rate.

Administration warned that the current free program would mean a deficit of over $300,000 in the 2020 budget, a deficit that would have to be accounted for come planning time for the 2021 municipal budget.

Mark Boileau, General Manager for Planning, Recreation and Development for the City of Cornwall explained administration’s stance on the parking issue.

“We provide a service that has a cost of about $600,000,” he said. “It includes enforcement, it includes permits, it includes to some extent to parking lots in the downtowns. It is not an insignificant amount of money. There has been discussion of implementing free parking. We may for example not provide free paid parking. We are always going to have to have enforcement out there whether you have paid parking or not. If you’re not collecting money for it it is going on to the general taxpayers. It is also a burden on businesses that pay for the provision of parking. That money has to come from somewhere. It either has to come from the general tax base, or it has to come from businesses that provide that service on their own.”

Boileau also pointed out that the City recently spent $130,000 on new parking machines in the downtown, and that while downtwon businesses were greatly in favour of continuing the two hour free parking program, they were the only Cornwall businesses that were surveyed.

Councillors however decided to keep the program in place, citing concerns about a second wave of the pandemic and possible further hardships to downtown businesses. Councillor Dean Hollingsworth and Councillor Claude McIntosh opposed the motion.

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