By Krista Duhon

MIAMI, Okla. — Downtown parking and changes to Miami’s downtown streetscape will be discussed at a town hall meeting set for 6 p.m. today at City Hall.

Larry Eller, city director of community development, and project engineers will outline plans and field questions related to implementation of the newest phase of a comprehensive street improvement plan. The plan, made possible in part through state and federal transportation funding and local matching funds, will include new sidewalks, streetlights, curbs and ramps.

Areas to be affected by the latest phase of the project include portions of Main Street from Steve Owens Boulevard to Second Avenue South, and from Central Avenue to First Avenue South.

City officials are also encouraging the public to offer solutions to downtown parking issues. The issue grew in intensity last week, when the city administration began enforcing parking regulations. Three dozen tickets were placed on the windshields of vehicles that exceeded parking limits.

Wendy Skaggs, a five-year employee of a downtown business, took exception to the ticket she received and took her complaint before City Council members as they met last week.

Skaggs said she believes the people who are investing in downtown will carry the biggest burden of the city’s new emphasis on parking enforcement.

“The plan to revitalize downtown, bring in business, promote a ‘Shop Miami’ attitude, fill the empty storefronts with activity, business and people ... may be sabotaged by this newly reinstated policy,” she said.

“As an employee of the downtown area, I often come in to work at 8 a.m. When it is time for lunch, I could cross Main Street and buy my lunch, go for coffee or a book, do my banking, even shop for clothes. Now it appears if I do not move my car or go somewhere every two hours, I will be penalized not only for working downtown but staying downtown to utilize downtown businesses.”

Skaggs was joined by Brent Hackett, co-owner of the St. James Building, who asked council members to consider issuing parking permits for the people who live and work in the downtown area.

Such permits for commercial businesses could be troublesome, said City Attorney David Anderson, who rents office space in one of Miami’s historic buildings.

“I would be happy to cooperate and provide any alternatives,” Anderson said. “But permitting particular spots for commercial business can be problematic.”

Mayor Brent Brassfield asked Skaggs and Hackett to be patient as the city works to find a resolution. He said Miami’s parking problems have existed for more than 40 years, and that the problem exists within every community that has a vital downtown area. As activity in Miami’s downtown grows, the parking deficiencies become more apparent, he said.

“Finding a balance is going to be difficult,” Brassfield said.

City Manager Huey Long expressed his frustrations with the implementation of the pilot program. He said it should have started with a warning period rather than the threat of arrest that was issued with each citation.

Long said his office was flooded with phone calls from angry residents who were issued citations.

“This should have been launched with an education process rather than as a missile into downtown Miami,” Long said.

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