3 On Your Side Investigates: Out of Order - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates: Out of Order

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

It's a frustration felt not only in City Hall but throughout downtown Jackson by anybody passing through: finding a parking space with a parking meter that works. While you might save some money by parking by one that's out of order, it's costing the city serious cash.

More than a decade ago, these meters brought almost half a million dollars annually into the City of Jackson.

Now that revenue is far less at a time when the city's budget needs it most.

"If I can find a parking spot and the meter's working, I pay the meter," said resident Whitney Grant. "If the meter isn't working, what do you do?" 

Some take advantage of those malfunctioning meters, knowing that in many cases the city won't write them a ticket if the meter isn't working.

Take one stretch of Amite Street near North State Street: four meters line the roadway, but only one works.

On the day our crew ventured downtown, we saw cars parked in the spots where meters were out of order, essentially parking for free.

The one meter in that section that worked had no car parked beside it, generating no additional revenue for the City of Jackson.

Just how widespread is this problem in the Capital City?

For hours, we walked around, logging 321 meters by location and whether or not they work.

Of those, 16 were covered, meaning they were reserved spaces, 33 didn't even appear to be powered, and 38 more said "out of order."

That means 250 of those 321 work, which rounds out to about 78 percent.

"I am surprised that the percentage is that high that works, because it seems like it would be lower," said Grant.

In fact, it may be much lower.

In James Stubbs' case, he found what he thought was a working meter, but it just took his money.

"I just put 40 cents in there," said Stubbs. "As big as my truck is, it's hard to find a parking place to park anywhere. They should at least take care of this. Why should I get a ticket for something that worked three days ago?"

As Stubbs put change into the meter, the blinking cursor stopped as if it recognized the money, then started blinking "zero" again.

Not 10 minutes later, another man lost his change half a block up Pascagoula Street.

"It's not taking it. I don't know what to do," said resident Jessie Cockrell.

In a few cases, only a metal pole stands where a meter should be.

The city's public works department hasn't revealed how many are out of order citywide, but using our sample, about 20 percent of all meters in Jackson, as a model for the whole city, one can estimate how much money gets lost in the shuffle.

Last year, those meters made $182,523 for the city of Jackson. It's estimated that broken meters cost the city of Jackson more than $51,000 last year.

But as Stubbs found out, the number could be even higher than that because some meters only look like they work.

Is Jackson getting its money's worth from the ones that do function?

That's an enforcement question.

We decided to test how long it takes to get a parking ticket by leaving an unmarked van parked along Capitol Street in downtown Jackson.

Some residents said they don't get tickets when they park downtown long enough for the meter to run out.

In our case, it took a parking enforcement officer about three hours to find the vehicle and write us a ticket.

Commander Tyree Jones with the Jackson Police Department says they have two parking enforcement officers working every week, handing out tickets.

They also have more positions open, but they're not filled at the moment, which could be due to the city's hiring freeze.

Are those two officers enough?

Ward 6 Councilman Tyrone Hendrix said that question falls to the mayor's office.

"We have to ensure that one, if we're gonna have parking meters, they have to work, and we have to also have a stronger enforcement arm if there are gonna be citations given," said Hendrix.

What about turning the parking meters over to a private company?

Hendrix said the council authorized the mayor's office to look into proposals for that back in December.

City spokesperson Shelia Byrd said the public works department is currently negotiating terms of an agreement with a firm.

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