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Friday, April 20 News

License plate reader approved for parking dept.

Drivers with parking permits in New Canaan can soon get rid of their hanging tags or stickers.

Within the next few weeks, the New Canaan Parking Bureau will install a license-plate reader to check for permits at seven of the town's parking lots.

On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen approved the bureau's request to purchase the $18,000 license-plate reader, which will consist of two cameras mounted on the right and left sides of a parking enforcement vehicle to alert officers to cars that don't have permits.

"Throughout the years, we've had tons of complaints about hanging permits, paper permits, sticker permits," Parking Bureau Supervisor Karen Miller said. "This will eliminate all permits."

Despite previous concerns about privacy, the project also gained support from the Town Council at a March 19 meeting.

Miller said council members feared the new system could provide a log of where people are and for how long, but she said the bureau would not be storing such information.

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Parking permit fees for 2014-15:
Railroad/lumberyard $540
Talmadge Hill $432
Richmond Hill $432
Park Street $396
Telephone company $396
Locust Avenue $384
Center School $120

"There will be no collection of data," Miller told the selectmen Tuesday.

Councilman Roger Williams, who was among those concerned about data storage, said he has spoken to Miller and now understands the system does not present a privacy concern.

"I thought that when someone buys a parking permit from us, my understanding is that the bargaining is to have the right to park at that lot and that their coming and going to New York City would not become a matter of public record," he said. "I'm convinced that the system they're proposing does not capture that data."

Christopher Kaiser, the town's director of information technology, told the council that the database would be strictly used for parking enforcement and would be rewritten every 24 hours so that there's no storing of data.

The permit lots in town are the railroad station lot on Elm Street, also known as the lumberyard; Talmadge Hill Road; Locust Avenue; Park Street; the telephone company on Main Street; Center School, on the corner of South Avenue and Maple Street; and Richmond Hill.

The most expensive parking permit in New Canaan is for the lumberyard lot -- $540 a year. At a March 7 meeting, the Board of Selectmen agreed to keep the rates for all permit lots flat.

Miller said the office issues about 10 to 20 tickets at the lumberyard lot every day. A no-permit ticket is currently $30.

The new system would allow the bureau's vehicle to get through the parking lots more quickly and enforce other parking areas that haven't been getting enough attention, according to Miller.

Councilman Steve Karl asked Miller to come back in the summer with a report so the town will know the new system impacts revenues.

Williams said the system is convenient because drivers no longer will have to "peel things off of our windshields or take tags off our mirrors."

Selectman Nick Williams, a commuter, said he was "personally delighted" that the project is moving forward. "Commuters are going to love ... not having to worry about having a hanging tag or a sticker," he said.

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To fund the project, the bureau has taken funds from its office supplies budget and other accounts.

If the system proves successful, the bureau might begin using the reader to alert officers to cars that exceeded the parking limit on off-street spaces as well.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter