WITH the city council being viewed as Uncle Scrooge by rejecting moves for free parking in off-street central Warrnambool, two Liebig Street businessmen have renewed calls for festive season leniency.
One has even suggested a local version of Gold Coast meter maids by having Santa roaming the streets to top up expired meters.
The concept was tried 26 years ago when two girls in a red Volkswagen roamed the city looking for expired meters to pop coins into as part of an advertising campaign.
Two weeks since the council voted 3-2 against a notice of motion to waive fees in three central car parks, traders Mick Peters and Dennis Bunworth have aired concerns they say are shared by many traders.
They fear the exodus of stores will continue unless customers are attracted back into the CBD with free parking.
Mr Peters, who operates Boolistic, said local laws officers should show more grace before slapping parking fine notices on windscreens.
“This week the Ozone park has barely been half full, yet there were parking fines on two cars side-by-side,” he said.
“It is good to see the council able to raise revenue, but at what cost to the CBD.
“One of our customers who is from out of town saw an officer writing a ticket for her vehicle in front of our shop. She said she wouldn’t return to the CBD again.
“Maybe we need someone going around topping up meters.
“My suggestion is make the first two hours free in off-street areas during the lead-up to Christmas.”
Mr Bunworth, who operates Warrnambool Disposals, said property owners had paid for construction of Ozone car park to benefit customers, yet parking costs were deterring users.
“On Saturdays the car park is full because it’s free,” he said.
“It seems to me the parking officers are sitting waiting to pounce.
“Free parking from two weeks before Christmas to New Year’s Day should be introduced.”
The council has previously told The Standard there is a 15-minute grace for paid parking spaces, but none for free time-limited parking.
Another long-term Liebig Street trader, Max Taylor, said parking costs were not deterring shoppers, rather a general economic downturn.
Charges in off-street parks range from 90 cents an hour, while all-day parking rates range from $2 to $4.20.
The on-street meter charges range from 60 cents to $1.10 an hour.
Fines are $65.
Council figures show there are 3500 parking spaces around the central precinct, of which 1040 are all-day and 1400 are free, marked on-road spaces plus free bays at Swintons and Woolworths supermarkets, Aldi and Bayside Plaza.