Cornwall free parking days numbered?

A sign on Third Street West in Cornwall, Ont. directs drivers to spots with two hour free parking. City council will decide whether to continue the program on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 after extending the complementary parking three times. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – After being extended three times, Cornwall city councillors will decide Monday whether its time to end the two hour free parking in the downtown areas.

The complementary parking was put in place at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

The city lost $340,000 last year but was able to offset that with money from the federal Safe Restart Agreement.

If the city were to continue free parking for the rest of this year, it would cost $400,000 for equipment, bylaw enforcement, lease agreements and parking lot maintenance. Since the department is supposed to be revenue neutral, a deficit would likely be borne by taxpayers if there is no government aid.

During its Jan. 11 meeting, Coun. Justin Towndale asked for and council agreed to continue with the status quo for another six weeks during the lockdown period. That ends Monday, Feb. 22.

The city has also put up 15 minute curbside parking which Planning General Manager Mark Boileau believes is well received.

“I’m not quite sure how much the two hour parking is helping because for the most part people are driving downtown, doing curbside,” Boileau told city council in January.

“That’s a lot of money that’s being taken away from the budget,” Mayor Bernadette Clement remarked during the January meeting. “That’s a lot of money that a lot of people are going to be paying.”

At the insistence of Coun. Todd Bennett, city council agreed in January to strike a task force to look for a “permanent solution for the parking program.”