Waynesburg University announced it had purchased the former county office building at 57 East High Street. So far, so good.
Then, a few days later, Waynesburg Borough Council voted to prepare an ordinance doubling the fines for most parking violations, except for the spots covered by the two-hour free parking limit in downtown areas. There, the fines will increase fourfold.
On the surface, these two facts seem to have nothing in common. But we would like to suggest they could be linked if the right opportunities present themselves.
First, let’s consider the parking issue. Since 1989, the borough’s main thoroughfares and side streets have been free of parking meters. There exists, however, permitted lots and at least two metered lots. But, for the most part, Waynesburg offers two-hour free parking.
In Waynesburg, tires are marked with yellow chalk, usually in the morning. Two hours later, if the car has not been moved, a ticket is issued and placed on the windshield. Often, a second ticket is used if the car has remained in the same spot, and it is this arrangement that apparently prompted council’s motion. Making the motion was Councilman Mark Fischer, which came as no surprise to us. He owns a business on Church Street and said his main concern is with those who violate the two-hour parking limit because of the impact it has on local businesses. Presently, the fine for violating the two-hour limit in areas downtown that do not have meters is $5. Under the proposed ordinance, the fine will increase to $20.
We think the proposed fine is excessive. But, as Fischer said, some people who park all day on the street seem to know when the two-hour limit is being enforced and when it is not. They apparently are not dissuaded by the existing fine.
“I think we need to send a message,” Fischer said.
How does the university fit into all of this? We think in two specific ways.
First, parking at the university for students and visitors can be a nightmare. Second, and perhaps more significantly, when it announced it had purchased the building, the university said it is committed to the long-term safety and prosperity of Waynesburg. And while it is looking at options for the building, the overriding interest is the safety of university students and members of the local community.
The university touts its relationship to the borough and it has donated more than $500,000 for vehicles, fire equipment and capital improvements to the borough. It has also contributed the legal services necessary to establish a land trust for the preservation of green areas throughout the borough. When the borough Streetscape project was in peril because of lack of funding, the university paid the $80,000 necessary to fully fund the project.
Moreover, as a “substantial contributor to the local economy,” the university provides jobs for more than 200 local residents and, each year, brings in more than 1,400 students who spend money in local restaurants and stores. Its faculty, staff and students contribute more than 50,000 hours of service through the university’s partnerships with more than 50 service agencies each year.
It is quite clear to us the university has made an investment, financially and otherwise, in the borough of Waynesburg. Now, we suggest they make another one – a rather large one – that would further strengthen the town-school relationship by solving the parking issue, both on campus and in the downtown.
We would like to see the university raze the old county building, and either through its own investment strategy or in concert with the borough and perhaps with other governmental agencies, erect a multistory parking garage in its place.
Now, Mr. Fischer, that would be sending a message.