Columbia Borough building

When: Columbia Borough Council meeting, June 14.

What happened: Downtown shoppers will continue to pay for Saturday parking after council members voted 6-1 against a motion that would have made parking that day permanently free. Sharon Lintner was the only council member who voted for the idea.

More information: The Columbia Merchants Association recently asked council to waive parking fees on Saturdays to encourage more people to shop downtown and prevent the borough from getting a bad reputation from visitors who get parking tickets. The group said shoppers, who sometimes fail to see the parking meter screen showing how much time is left, get tickets and then complain that they will never visit Columbia again.

Changed mind: Member Todd Burgard, who initially supported free parking on Saturdays, said he changed his mind after researching the idea. He discovered that Philadelphia, San Francisco and other cities rescinded free parking after discovering that it didn’t draw more shoppers to downtown areas.

Background: Columbia already allows free parking on Saturdays from November through February to promote holiday shopping downtown. The borough doesn’t charge for Sunday parking.

ParkMobile coming: An online parking system will start in a few weeks and should solve many problems associated with downtown parking, such as a lack of parking signs that clearly state parking costs and enforcement hours, Mark Stivers, borough manager, told council members.

Quotable: “There will be clear signage,” Stivers said.

Details: Atlanta-based ParkMobile will allow customers to bypass cash and pay for parking through a smartphone app or a toll-free phone number. People still will be able to insert coins in a meter, if preferred. In addition, shoppers will have the option to extend their parking time from inside a restaurant or store.

Zion Hill: Chris Vera, who directs The Columbia Historical Preservation Society, asked council to help pay for $15,000 needed to remove 45 damaged trees from the borough-owned Zion Hill cemetery.

More info: The society wants to use mostly private funds to renovate the African American cemetery, which contains the remains or headstones from 17 Black Civil War veterans and one World War I soldier. Vera estimated that at least 61 bodies are buried in the cemetery at 553 N. Fifth St. Plans call for a brick memorial wall that will contain loose headstones, wall panels that will explain Columbia’s African American history, white marble crosses and a walking trail around the cemetery, Vera said.

Quotable: “If a tree is a hazard, we are telling residents that if the hazard is on their property, they need to fix it,” council President Heather Zink said. “Well, this time the hazard is on our property, and we need to fix it.”

What’s next: Council will meet at 7 p.m. June 28, and the meeting will be streamed on the borough’s Facebook page.

What to Read Next