EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle will receive at least $200,000 in beach parking revenue this season, up from a minimum of $120,000, under an amended contract with private company NCParking to manage the town’s two major lots.
Town manager Matt Zapp said Monday NCParking offered the increase in guaranteed revenue recently because the town’s Eastern and Western ocean regional accessed have experienced higher than anticipated visitation since the new system went into effect April 1. In addition, he said Emerald Isle and NCParking intentionally budgeted conservatively in the original contract.
“Town representatives met with NCParking in early June to review April and May operations,” Mr. Zapp said in an email about a week after town commissioners approved the contract amendment as part of the consent agenda July 13. “Following the Memorial Day billing issue, NCParking offered to increase the minimum guarantee to Emerald Isle.”
That billing issue occurred at both lots May 30 and May 31, when a software glitch at two of five payment kiosks charged customers $6 per hour, instead of $4, which was supposed to be the maximum fee.
After the problem came to light, NCParking refunded all customers who used the two lots those two days. The company paid $3,282 to those who were directly affected by the glitch and nearly $7,000 to those who most likely weren’t.
The $4-per-hour fee is charged during the peak of summer and on holiday and major event weekends, but at other times hourly rates are $2 or $3 per hour. The meters run from from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day during tourism season and on holiday and event weekends.
The system replaced the town’s flat fee of $10 per day, which was in effect Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during tourism season.
In the email Monday, Mr. Zapp said NCParking’s offer to increase the town’s share of the revenue “displays their professional commitment to meeting/exceeding the expectations of Emerald Isle and its taxpayers.”
Mr. Zapp said he didn’t have figures on how much visitation has increased, but Carteret County occupancy tax revenue broke April and May records, and June and July appear likely to follow suit, according to tourism officials.
At any rate, comparing monthly parking revenue this season to previous seasons would be comparing apples to oranges, Mr. Zapp said, because in the past seasons, fees were charged only on weekends and holidays.
In 2019, the town netted $136,150 in parking fees from the facilities. In 2020, despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, that total increased to $172,229.
Another change in the NCParking contract approved by commissioners July 13 specifies the company must staff both accesses from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day through Thursday, Sept. 30.
In answer a News-Times inquiry, Mr. Zapp said the amendment was not due to customer complaints about too few workers, but adopted because it hadn’t been specified in the original contract.
“The town has not received parking complaints, excluding the single issue that occurred on the Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “Operations and customer relations at both the WORA and EORA have been high. The only complaint we receive is the limited amount of parking. Customers and guests wish we had additional places to park near the ocean.”
The town set the contract with NCParking for one year to see how the system would work before making a multi-year commitment.
Emerald Isle will perform and produce a seasonal review of paid parking, similar to past years, Mr. Zapp said. But he added he’s been satisfied with the company’s performance.
“Following the billing issue that occurred during the Memorial Day … NCParking took swift action to refund every customer that attended our paid parking lots on Sunday and Memorial Day Monday,” he said. “They went above and beyond to ensure that all customers, even those that were accurately charged, received a refund.
“Furthermore, they voluntarily increased the local revenue guarantee to the Town of Emerald Isle and its taxpayers.
“Additionally,” the manager concluded, “the … parking ambassadors are doing a fine job of helping guests with the new system. For these reasons, we are thankful that Emerald Isle selected NCParking as our third party vendor.”
NCParking did not respond to a request for comment.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.