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Waterloo city leaders considering some free parking downtown

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- During their work session on Monday afternoon, Waterloo City Council members discussed plans to allow free parking downtown for short periods.

The city is looking at a free parking period lasting an hour or two to help downtown businesses. It would cover both sides of East Fourth Street. It could also be extended to include some of the side streets.

Downtown businesses said the reprieve is much needed. Jenny Bagenstos, the owner of Here's What's Poppin' told the council the parking meters are the difference between whether some customers do or do not come into her store.

"If they are driving by and want to buy a bag of popcorn for five dollars and they can't find a quarter in their car, they are going to drive on by," she said. "I am wondering how much of that I am missing."

Other business owners talked about the issues they come across with the meters. Mary Heller who owns The Ivy Trellis said when the meters are broken or don't work,

"I know it this is a difficult, sticky kind of thing, and there are a lot of different things that go into it," she said. "I think it is something that we need to hash out because if you want to get more retailers to come to downtown Waterloo, you are going to have to solve this situation."

Council members also talked about creating a 15-minute quick "grab and go" parking zone for food or other items. Some of the business owners asked council members about where they are thinking of putting them.

The City of Waterloo received just over $461,000 in parking revenue during the fiscal year 2019. Just under $122,000 of that came from the parking meters.

The city received $461.574.91 in parking revenue for the year ended June 30, 2020. That includes $121,788.12 from the meters.

Business owners point to the parking situation in downtown Cedar Falls as an example of what they hope it could be like in the future.

"Their downtown thrives, and people complain they can't find a parking spot," Heller said. "I would like that to happen here. That would be wonderful"

The changes are not coming yet. Monday's meeting was just a council work session to work out the details. Any permanent changes will not be made until it is brought up at a regular council meeting in the future.

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Daniel Perreault

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