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FREE PARKING MAY BE TRIED FOR 6 MONTHS ON N. UNION

Parking in the 300 block of North Union Street may soon be free -- on a six-month trial.

The Common Council has yet to take formal action on legislation, but the idea, proposed by Alderwoman Kathleen Sader, gained support during a Tuesday night committee meeting. The moratorium will be subject to an evaluation and could be rescinded if it is not shown to be successful within three months.

The committee set aside a second proposal from Sader to bag all parking meters on North Union and West State streets every weekend.

The legislation was supported by Beverly Black of Eade's Wallpaper, a family business in that block for 61 years. She said retail businesses such as hers receive no incentive from the city, unlike nonprofit and corporate enterprises.

She told aldermen that store owners and customers are often ticketed by patrolmen who come through twice a day, but her business is the only retail outlet on the block.

"It's escalated to the point where we need help now," said Black, adding, "We are waving the white flag."

Betty Leavitt, owner of Professional Answering Service in the same block, asked that businesses be given their own meters to allow enough parking for customers. She said nearby restaurant patrons, commuters and residents are crowding out the patrons.

Mayor James P. Griffin told her that such an arrangement is prohibited under state law. He said merchants have criticized parking arrangements that do little to attract retail activity and said some permanent changes must be made.

In another matter, a special panel will soon be formed to spell out criteria for a citywide curb-replacement program, a need that aldermen, the mayor and the public works director agreed deserved more attention and funding.

Council President Paula Snyder said some funds could be allocated to get the program under way.

Griffin said the panel should be launched with city staffers who would first prepare a framework for the proposal before aldermen came on board in order to avoid lengthy committee meetings. Snyder said after the meeting that she will meet with the mayor and reach some terms on membership of the work group.

Public Works Director Peter Marcus told aldermen new curbs cost about $20 per linear foot and recommended an annual budget of $40,000 for the work. He said beginning in 1989 curb replacement was funded at $30,000 for several years. He recalled that two-thirds of a $100,000 bond passed in 1992 financed curb projects around the city. But the current streets budget and a $1 million street-repair fund does not focus on systematic curb replacement, he added.

Marcus urged the aldermen and the mayor to let his department establish priorities for new curbing.

The committee also decided to send to the Council an emergency-replacement proposal to spend $440 from contingency funds for 22 feet of new curbing at 217 N. 13th St., where heavy rains pose dangers to nearby homes.

Two proposals totaling $1,600 for curb replacements in other neighborhoods were tabled, as was Alderman Steven Teachman's proposal to spend $40,000 in contingency funds for curb work over the next year.

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