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Columbus Council Fields Parking Meter Complaints.

Outraged business owners told Columbus City Council members they don't think the new parking meter rate hikes are fair. Those concerns came as members heard a request to step up purchase of meters that will accept credit cards to ease the strain of higher prices. WOSU's Debbie Holmes reports. ------- Several business people from downtown and the Short North district told city council members they felt left out of a decision to raise meter rates by 50%. President of Betty's Family Restaurants, Elizabeth Lessner, made it clear she doesn't approve of the increase. "It's going to have a detrimental effect on downtown. We did quite a bit of study this afternoon and learned that our rates in Columbus are higher then Dayton, Cincinnati, Toledo, Lexington." Says Lessner. The sharp criticism caused some council members like Charleta Tavares and Priscilla Tyson to question why the public was not given more of a chance to air their fears that their businesses may be hurt. Scott Kuenzli owns a business in the Short North. "It was kind of arrived at behind closed doors, no input was asked for. It was simply handed down as a fait accompli and let's move on. And in the economic conditions being what they are it doesn't make any sense that we want to bear this burden down in the downtown businesses should bear this all themselves." Says Kuenzli. Public Service director, Mark Kelsey, whose decision led to the rate hike says he understands the concern, but improvements are needed. "We're trying to strike that balance so that we have people come and shop and dine downtown and we have enough money to pay for the replacement of the meter heads and to guarantee those bonds for the hotel." Says Kelsey. The new Short North hotel will be near the convention center. Kelsey asked council members to re-direct $500,000 from his Public Service

Budget and the city's capital spending plan to start buying and installing meters that will accept credit cards. About 720 of them are set to be installed next summer. A vote isn't expected until the new year. Councilman Andrew Ginther says procedures may change on future rate hikes. "The public service director has complete power and discretion. I think what you heard tonight is that there needs to be public input and public buy in when these things change in the future." Says Ginther. Until then, an advisory committee made up of business leaders will be organized to monitor how the meter rate increase impacts businesses. Debbie Holmes WOSU News.