Sewickley Parking Authority seeks community input as 2020 changes take effect

Monday, February 3, 2020 | 12:01 AM

Since August, there has been plenty of change on the Sewickley Parking Authority board — with three new members and three different people chairing the volunteer body.

Andreas Schulze Ising, appointed in December, highlighted the current board’s recent effort to solve Sewickley’s parking challenges collaboratively. He expressed satisfaction with the turnout from residents and business owners at the authority’s Jan. 23 meeting. In an interview, Schulze Ising also spoke about the authority’s plans to add more parking and hire new personnel.

The authority began the year by making several enforcement changes. Those changes, which went into effect Jan. 1, include a three-hour time limit in Zone 1. Parking now costs $1 per hour in Zones 1 and 2, but Zone 2 has no time limit. Enforcement occurs Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., as opposed to Monday through Friday.

Last year, motorists paid $1 per hour to park in Zone 1 and 25 cents per hour to park in Zone 2, with no time limits. Board members adopted the changes to create more turnover and availability in the central business district, the Sewickley Herald has reported.

Schulze Ising said the authority is gathering information and considering which issues need to be discussed with community stakeholders in the future.

“The Sewickley Chamber of Commerce is very happy with the turnout of business owners at the most recent Parking Authority meeting,” Sewickley Chamber of Commerce President Diana Kauffman said via email. “The Parking Authority gave ample time to listen to their concerns, questions and ideas. Currently, they are working hard to complete their due diligence process.

“After its completion, we are confident this new Parking Authority, led by (chairwoman) Sandra Marr, will be able to implement solutions that will be better for our residents, visitors and businesses.”

Rich Robinson, part-owner of Robinson’s Home & Garden, said he has not heard significant complaints about the new rates and time limits, but customers have complained about the Saturday enforcement.

“Customers coming in, what we hear most often is there is not enough parking in town, and we need more parking spaces,” said Robinson, who has not attended recent parking authority meetings.

He said another “open lot” like the ones on Green and Division streets could help the parking situation.

Robinson also said that store customers frequently complain about the pay stations not working properly.

“Most people wouldn’t mind if they just went back to the regular parking meters,” he said.

In the fall, while Del Miller was chair, the authority was considering a trial of coin-operated parking meters that could take credit cards. But Schulze Ising said the new board does not plan to pursue this trial.

“Right now we are working with the current provider of the meters to fix the issues at hand, but we are also looking at other options in case those machines can’t be fixed and do what they’re supposed to do,” Schulze Ising said.

To help with parking availability, the authority has started talking with representatives of Heritage Valley Health System to bring back an agreement that would allow individuals to purchase monthly parking leases at the Heritage Valley Sewickley garage.

A similar agreement existed previously but fell through last year.

Schulze Ising also said the board plans to evaluate the possibility of constructing a parking garage over the next several months, although he added that the chances of bringing a garage to Sewickley are slim.

In addition to the board reshuffling, Sewickley’s Assistant Borough Manager Erin Sakalik, who also handled administration for the Parking Authority, resigned from her position in October. At its Jan. 23 meeting, Schulze Ising said the board voted to begin the process of hiring a full-time parking manager. The authority, he said, is currently evaluating recruitment firms to help hire the employee.

“The board changes so often there needs to be a fixture that knows the ins and outs,” Schulze Ising said.

He also told the Sewickley Herald that board members hired Gretchen Moore, of the law firm Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Getsky, to serve as the authority’s solicitor. Chris Voltz, of the law firm Tucker Arensberg, served in the role previously. Tucker Arensberg is also the solicitor for Sewickley council.

Schulze Ising expressed optimism about the authority’s ability to address Sewickley’s parking challenges going forward.

“For the first time there’s truly a collaboration between everybody involved here in town to make this a better experience,” he said.

The next Sewickley Parking Authority board meeting will be Feb. 24.