The Medford City Council voted 5-1 for a 50 percent increase in downtown parking violation fines following a public hearing Thursday night.

See correction below story
The Medford City Council voted 5-1 for a 50 percent increase in downtown parking violation fines following a public hearing Thursday night.

Richard Rogers of American Hearing Aid Systems on Central Avenue urged the council to deny the request.

"Part of my concern is just a trend that I see," he said, adding that this increase in itself "won't break my business. It's just another nail in the coffin."

Approved was a 50 percent increase to parking fines in the downtown effective Oct. 1. The Medford Urban Renewal Agency, which manages the downtown parking program, proposed a parking ticket increase from $10 to $15 and a late payment jump from $20 to $30.

The increases will generate $50,000 annually to help cover parking projects, raising total revenue from $231,746 to $282,486 in 2008.

Alison Chan, the city finance director, told the council MURA parking expenditures exceed its revenues, which is depleting the annual fund balance that is carried over every year.

The last fine increase was in 2001, from $5 to $10.

The meeting was a continuation of the Sept. 6 public hearing, during which several downtown merchants requested the council to postpone voting on the fine increase until merchants had an opportunity to attend MURA's Parking Committee meeting to offer comments.

During Thursday's meeting George Schroeder, owner of Schroeder's Furniture & Collectibles and Antiques and chairman of the downtown parking committee, said Rogers was the only downtown business owner at the meeting who remained opposed to the increase. Schroeder said people who work downtown need to stop parking in customer spots. All day parking is available in places such as at Hawthorne Park and at the senior center.

"It's mostly employees that are taking up these spaces," he said, adding that one of the parking lot attendants told him the company issues parking tickets repeatedly to the same people.

Councilman John Statler, the sole vote in opposition to the increase, said he thought the 50 percent increase was dramatic. He said he's been hearing from some downtown business owners and would feel better about the increase were downtown business turnover lower and foot traffic greater.

Councilman Greg Jones said that because the parking committee is made up of downtown business owners, he felt their recommendation was valid.

Councilman Ben Truwe said he was supporting the increase reluctantly.

"It seems the problem is they need another revenue stream," he said. "I'd like to see the fundamental problem addressed."

CORRECTION: A misspelling in a headline and an incorrect date for the new parking fines going into effect have been corrected in this story.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.