A car goes around the corner on Beacon Street East in Downtown Laconia, where all-day parking – which is now free – may carry a price tag if a proposal before the Laconia City Council is enacted. The measure is now before a council committee. (Rick Green/The Laconia Daily Sun)

LACONIA — A pay-to-park proposal being considered by the City Council has drawn dozens of negative comments on social media, but one downtown business owner suggests a more constructive approach.

Breanna Neal, owner of the Polished and Proper Barbershop & Shave Parlor, is encouraging people to attend city meetings on the proposal, which calls for a $50-a-month permitting system for those who wish to park all day downtown.

Parking is now free.

A City Council committee led by Councilor David Bownes will take up the proposal, but a date has not been set yet for this meeting.

Neal said in an interview Thursday that if she were to pay the $50 monthly permit fee for her five barbers, it would cost her $3,000 a year.

She doesn’t like that prospect, but she said that’s something that is still subject to much discussion at the committee level, and later before the City Council.

She also responded in writing on The Laconia Daily Sun’s Facebook page to numerous negative comments about the proposed charge and about to downtown in general.

“Sadly, the majority of these comments seem to come from folks who either don’t frequent downtown or didn’t read the article,” she wrote. “First, I’d say if you have a well thought out opinion on the subject that includes an alternative solution that is productive, please come to the committee meeting and present it to those members of City Council.

“Facebook is a very convenient way to vent frustrations, but certainly isn’t where you foster change. Call or email your city councilor, come to the meetings, or anything that is more productive than being negative and vile on social media.”

Patrick McGuire praised Facebook commenting.

“This is the fastest, most direct, and efficient way for the local people of this community to have a discussion,” he wrote. “Maybe the members of the committee could try and explain themselves here on this platform? Or at the very least pay attention to the overwhelming consensus online.”

Another of those who commented, Carey Hough, recommended the city not put “the cart before the horse.”

“You have to have a downtown that is in demand and people are already visiting in droves before you implement something like this,” Hough wrote.

Nelle Douville wrote:

“Concentrate on rebuilding downtown. That means bringing people in and not chasing them out.”

City Manager Scott Myers unveiled the proposal Monday night. It would also increase the cost of parking tickets, which are $10 now, to $25, and increase parking enforcement, now seasonal, to year-round.

Money gained from parking permits would help fund parking improvements. The municipal parking garage is in need of major refurbishment and the city’s main surface lot needs repaving.

Two-hour parking would continue to be free under the proposal, but still to be determined is what to do about visitors who need to park for longer than two hours.

“A discussion should occur as to whether or not 2 hours is the appropriate limit for parking spaces and whether or not the first hours should be free of charge,” a staff report said.

“If the City were looking to charge customers for all parking during a regulated time period (9 am to 5 pm, M - F for example) then a Pay & Display parking kiosk system would need to be implemented.”

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