Merchants must save parking for customers

Sometimes, you wonder why a municipality keeps a law on the books that it doesnt enforce. Vandalia Alderman Jerry Swarm does, too.

At Mondays meeting of the Vandalia City Council, Swarm said it bothers him that some downtown merchants use parking spaces that would be better used by their customers. It upsets him so much that he asked to get rid of the ordinance that limits parking along Gallatin Street downtown to two hours.

Swarms suggestion drew puzzled expressions from other city officials, and when asked to explain his suggestion, Swarm said, We dont enforce it anyway, so why dont we just make it legal.

Ultimately, Mayor Rick Gottman asked the councils streets and sewers committee to study the issue of parking along Gallatin Street.

Thats a good idea, particularly if the city is sincere about doing what it can to help downtown merchants.

There are times, with Saturday morning being a good example, when theres a lot of traffic downtown and many or all parking spaces are being used, some by merchants.

Potential customers of a downtown store either continue driving until a spot opens up or park a good distance away from the store they plan to patronize. Or, they get frustrated and decide to go somewhere else for their intended purpose.

When the latter occurs, that takes business away from a downtown merchant.

Vandalia Main Street Program Manager Dana Whiteman told city officials on Monday that there are studies that show the value of a parking space to a merchant. Gottman asked her to dig up those study results and pass them on to the streets and sewers committee.

The bottom line is that the steps a merchant saves by parking in front of his or her business translates into dollars coming out of his or her pocket.

Some at Mondays meeting thought that maybe a media blitz might be the answer, to remind merchants of the city ordinance. That suggestion drew smiles from some others sitting around the council table.

If its serious about keeping the parking law on the books, and enforcing it, spreading the word through the local media is only a start. Direct contact of some sort, either through written notices or face-to-face reminders, would be needed to ensure that merchant are aware of that law.

That is, of course, if the city decides that it DOES want to keep the law. We think it should.

rb

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