The Groton Town Council decided Tuesday night to pay for parking the in the lot in an effort to .
The deal with the art center will cover five hours of parking for anyone in the lot. The town will pay the art center $3/hour for that time.
The town will foot the bill for six weeks and possibly beyond to the tune of not more than $50,000 in available encumbered funds.
It could start as soon as Thursday but definitely by the weekend - the deal needs to be finalized between the two parties.
The plan is hoped to by the ongoing streetscape project. Merchants said the , traffic delays and lack of free onstreet parking has hurt their businesses.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Tricia Cunningham, president. “This will afford us the opportunity to promote downtown Mystic again. All the businesses and the town can wrap their arms around this as a whole. I’m thrilled.”
Downtown shop owner Cathy McHugh told the council that the time to “point fingers” is over: “We need to just get through this.”
Mayor Heather Bond Somers explained that the arts center provides the first half hour of free parking and the town will pick up the other 4 ½ hours at a rate of $3 per hour, per car—with no limitations on who can park there. Anyone that parks longer than the free 5 hours will pay the overage at the $3 an hour rate.
“The town wants to do something beneficial for the merchants. Having free parking for people that want to shop, go to restaurants,” she said.
The council supported the plan preliminarily at the Committee of the Whole and then voted during its regular meeting to support the resolution; Councilor Frank O’Beirne abstained and Councilor Bruce Flax was not at the meeting.
“How quickly can we make signs,” Mayor Somers asked.
Meanwhile, the streetscape project “is making good progress” project manager Rick Norris told the council. To that end, he said that street milling will begin Thursday just after dawn. That part of the project was supposed to be done at night but Norris said the contractor was not able to make that happen.
Milling is an “early Christmas present,” said Town Manager Mark Oefinger because once the milling is completed, paving is not far behind. Indeed, paving is slated to begin June 27. Milling will require the shutdown of streets Thursday, the police department has been in consultation with Norris and Oefinger to coordinate traffic concerns.
Several councilors were upset that they were precluded from commenting more on the streetscape debacle that has left downtown a disaster area and merchants struggling to stay alive; Oefinger cautioned councilors from remarking personally because of the threat of possible litigation.