By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — In all the years she has been driving, Debby Furney never received a parking ticket — until a recent Friday afternoon after meeting friends for lunch at the Cabbage Road Eatery downtown on Meridian Street.
When Furney returned to her car — parked in the city's metered lot across the street — tucked under the windshield wiper was a ticket giving her a $10 fine. She was surprised to see it. And frustrated. So was another friend who also was cited.
"That's the first parking ticket I've ever had, and I'm 65," Furney said.
However, Furney admits she didn't put a quarter in the meter. Experience told her it would be frustrating.
In the past, her quarter disappeared into the slot and she received no time credit on the meter. The first few times it happened, she moved to another space, only to find that meter also was broken.
Eventually, Furney decided to stop throwing good money after bad and she quit feeding the meters.
"I've put a lot of quarters in those meters and they just haven't worked,"
And it wasn't a problem. After a leisurely lunch, Furney and her friends would return to their cars and drive away.
Furney's companion the other week, Durena Reed, shares her friend's frustration, calling the whole experience "just another aggravation for downtown Anderson."
Anderson Police Department Maj. Sean Richwine acknowledged the women must have been frustrated. He advised people who encounter balky parking meters to walk across Main Street to police headquarters and tell officers at the front desk about the problem.
He added that department officers are attempting to enforce parking ordinances more consistently, and sent a letter to downtown business owners advising them of new enforcement efforts.
Reed scoffed at walking a city block to complain. The better solution, she said, would be for the city to keep meters in good working order and enforce parking laws consistently.
Richwine said a possible fix is in the works.
Included in the Police Department's proposed budget for fiscal 2014 is an $18,200 line item to fund two part-time parking positions.
Anderson police have been responsible for downtown parking enforcement since 2004, Richwine said. The city used to have a parking authority to handle those duties and maintain the downtown garage at Meridian and 11th streets, but the jobs were eliminated in budget cuts.
And Anderson doesn't make much money from parking meters, either. In 2012, Richwine said, the city collected $7,145.36. So far this year, the city has collected $2,787.92.
Until those positions are approved, however, the duty of making sure Anderson's 50 parking meters work properly is the job of Jeff Delong, maintenance supervisor for the police department.
As he was checking the lot and collecting money last Monday, Delong found six broken meters facing Meridian Street.
The most common reason they stop working, he said, is that people insert nickels and dimes into the meters instead of the required quarters.
Those coins won't drop properly and, if enough of them collect, they jam the mechanism so that it's impossible to turn the meter knob. Unless someone notifies the police department that the meters aren't working, it might be several days or more before he swings by to check them.
"If a meter is broken, you've got to let someone know," Delong said.
Richwine said having staff to handle those duties regularly would ensure more reliable operation and better parking enforcement.
Claudette Bettencourt, who owns Your Way Cafe and Conscious Creations at 1019 Meridian St., said problems at the meter lot are well known among her customers.
"As a business person, I'm happy to give customers a quarter for coming into my two downtown stores. I think that whatever they (police) do should be consistent."
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