Late afternoon December downtown Cornwall parking will be free; budget will take $7,200 revenue hit

In this August 2019, file photo, a sign on Pitt Street in Cornwall, Ont. directs drivers to the nearest pay machine for parking. The city has agreed with a request from the local chamber of commerce to make parking free for two hours on weekday afternoons from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. during December. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Downtown shoppers will be able to park for free for a couple of hours on late weekday afternoons in December.

City council agreed Monday night with a request from the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce to make parking free from 4 p.m. until 6 a.m., Monday to Friday, in the downtown and Le Village Business Improvement Areas (BIAs).

The move will mean that city stands to lose about $7,200 in parking revenue for a budget that is financed through parking revenue and fines – not from general taxes. The amount is about 1.5 per cent of all revenue expected to be collected this year.

The fact that the budget will take a hit and that it wasn’t previously budgeted for, since this isn’t the first time free parking in December has been done (it’s been done for two years), didn’t sit well with Coun. Dean Hollingsworth.

“You can call it whatever you want. We’re losing $7,200, we’re giving somebody a grant. Spin it any way you want, but in future we need to nail this down in how we handle it,” Hollingsworth said Monday night.

CAO Maureen Adams agreed that the chamber of commerce, like any other organization, should ask for the free parking through grants for in-kind services in future years so the departmental budget can take into account the loss of revenue.

Planning General Manager Mark Boileau believes that “the activity is a little bit higher” and more revenue comes in through parking meters during the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot as people head downtown for dinner and shopping.

The parking budget is being squeezed this year as the city has to pay $40,000 to upgrade parking software for its electronic pay machines. It also bought two units this year.

“Christmas shopping is coming in December. I want people downtown and have businesses thriving rather than, respectfully, going to the mall. We have restaurants, clothing stores, people that need to have to come downtown to buy here. If it was up to me, we would not have any parking meters downtown,” Coun. Syd Gardiner said.

Parking in Cornwall is $1 per hour.