- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

RUSTON, La. (AP) - Shoppers in downtown Ruston will soon have an additional hour to leave vehicles parked in the same parking place before being ticketed.

The Daily Leader reported (http://bit.ly/1twoEE3) Ruston’s Board of Aldermen has approved a package of downtown parking changes this week that include increasing timed parking from the current two hours to three hours per space; raising the overparking fine from $5 to $25; eliminating existing all-day free parking on the south side of West Park Avenue and on the block of North Monroe Street between West Park Avenue and West Mississippi Street; and creating a downtown residential parking permit.

The changes take effect Nov. 1.

Merchants said the new rules will make the area more customer-friendly and deter business owners and employees from parking in front of their own establishments.

Only the abolition of the all-day free spaces along West Park Avenue drew complaints. The spaces, now used mostly by people who work downtown, will become three-hour timed parking.

Several people said turning the approximately 30 spaces into timed parking means workers will have to park in a city lot across the KCS railroad tracks that has no crosswalks and is poorly lighted.

“The employees need a safe place to park,” said Danny Milam, who works for Paramount Healthcare.

Milam forwarded to aldermen a petition containing the signatures of 55 downtown employees opposed to the West Park Avenue change but the board did not discuss the petition.

Bill Baldwin, owner of Baldwin’s Jewelry, endorsed the West Park Avenue change. Retailers there “really need that parking, especially during the day,” he said. “There’s no reason for it not to be timed parking.”

Aldermen said they agree safety improvements need to be made to the parking lot across the railroad tracks - often called the Ruston Farmer’s Market lot - but the new rules still benefit downtown.

“If we say ‘Shop Ruston first,’ we’re going to have to give in, make some concessions,” Alderwoman Glenda Howard said.

“We had to do something,” Alderwoman Marie Riggs said. “It would never be a 100 percent agreement.”

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Information from: Ruston Daily Leader, http://www.rustonleader.com/

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