GREENFIELD — Parking enforcement in the city’s downtown will become a priority in coming months.
The Greenfield Police Department plans to bring on a team of officers to patrol the district and enforce the city’s parking rules.
The effort — spearheaded by Mayor Chuck Fewell — aims to provide an extra bit of security to the city’s growing Main Street. The officers will handle any issue that arises downtown, from security concerns at local businesses to traffic complaints, while the city’s full-time patrol officers focuses on protecting the rest of the city.
Crime has never been an issue downtown, Fewell said, but the availability of parking has been a sticking point for the small-business owners who fill the city’s downtown storefronts.
As city officials and business owners work to revitalize the area, officials say it’s more important than ever to ensure there are open parking spots for visitors.
The mayor hopes having officers regularly enforcing parking ordinances in the heart of the city will make it easier for residents to find parking there, thereby increasing foot traffic to downtown businesses.
Having a greater police presence near the intersection of State and Main streets will also create an extra layer of security that will continue to deter crime there as well, Fewell said.
There are about 700 on-street parking spots within the downtown area, city officials say. Most require visitors to adhere to parking limits that vary from 20 minutes to two hours. More than 380 parking spaces are available in public lots that do not have parking limits.
But for years, residents, visitors and local merchants have complained that finding parking downtown isn’t easy as some drivers don’t comply with parking limits, clogging the downtown streets. Some shop owners worry their would-be customers take business elsewhere to avoid parking headaches, officials have said.
Greenfield Police Chief Jeff Rasche hopes to hire at least three police officers who can work the new downtown beat; he plans to begin interviewing and hiring candidates for the job in coming weeks.
Though the officers will be part-time, they will be sworn members of law enforcement who have the same powers as any other full-time officer, ensuring they can aid in any criminal incident or investigation that might be necessary.
The officers hired will make $20 an hour but will not collect benefits, a pension or retirement funds from the city, officials said.
Downtown business leaders say they welcome the addition.
Corrine Butler, a manager at McCleerey’s Sporting Goods, said the business’s proximity to Greenfield City Hall means the on-street parking spots near their storefront are regularly taken up by those visiting the government offices. And though their customer can usually find a spot in a nearby parking lot, the company does hear complaints from its customers from time to time.
Butler hopes having an officer downtown will encourage visitors to obey parking rules and make downtown a great place for everyone to enjoy, she said.
Rashe said he also plans to use the new officers to help provide security at special events downtown, such as the annual Riley Festival, charity walks along the Pennsy Trail or gatherings in the North Street Living Alley.