Wednesday, May 14, 2008

County Council will revisit free library parking next month

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The County Council will revisit the issue of whether to charge library patrons for parking when it reconvenes on June 10.

County Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park on Tuesday introduced a resolution to repeal the 2006 resolution that guarantees free parking for all of the county’s public library patrons.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist.1) of Potomac and Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring, would mean that visitors of the Rockville and Bethesda libraries would begin to pay.

The council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee recommended on May 2 to cut $84,000 that the county pays the City of Rockville in annual subsidies for free parking for library customers. The decision sparked Leventhal’s new resolution.

Rockville and Bethesda library patrons use a system in which they validate parking at an unmonitored kiosk inside the library. Patrons must remember their parking space number and enter it in the kiosk, which would give them up to two hours of free parking at a time. Visitors can go back to the kiosk to add more time.

The new law would also affect the future Silver Spring library, which has plans for a similar parking system.

Leventhal has says the system has no way of preventing abuse from those who validate their parking in the library, but go to nearby retail shops instead.

Rockville officials have long believed library patrons should be entitled to free parking.

If the policy were retracted, library patrons would have to start paying for parking, Rockville Mayor Susan R. Hoffmann said last week.

‘‘The library is a county facility, let’s not forget that. It is their responsibility,” she had said.

‘‘We don’t have the mechanism for funding it,” she added, referring to the City of Rockville.

As a matter of procedure, the council would have to reinstate the $84,000 that the transportation committee recommended cutting, Neil H. Greenberger, council spokesman, said. The council would have to repeal the policy before cutting the funds.

A straw vote on the full budget is expected Thursday. A final vote on the budget is expected May 22.