Correction: This article was updated at 10:20 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, to correct the addresses of the town's beach accesses.
EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle commissioners Tuesday night renewed the town’s contract with NCParking to manage parking at the eastern and western beach access lots at 2701 Highway 58 and Louise Avenue, off Islander Drive, respectively.
The decision was part of the consent agenda – a list of items that can be approved with one vote – during the board’s monthly meeting in the town hall and online via Zoom and the town’s Facebook Page.
There was no discussion.
The town in March 2021 entered into the contract with NCParking to manage the two parking lots, which each have more than 160 spaces.
Under the contract during the 2021 tourism season, people paid parking fees seven days a week on a sliding scale that ranged from $2 to $4 per hour based on the month of use, not to exceed $16 for a full day. A full day is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Prior to 2021, those who used the lots paid a flat parking fee of $10, regardless of how long they stayed, and it applied only on weekends and holidays.
That system was managed by the town parks and recreation department, which hired employees to take in the fees.
Under the privately managed system, customers pay with credit or debit cards at kiosks or can use a smartphone app to do so. The company hires employees, called ambassadors, to help customers when necessary.
In the end, according to a memo to the town board for the meeting Tuesday, the average user paid $8.66 to park during the 2021 season.
Town officials at the time the contract went into effect said one reason for the change was it was hard to hire and retain employees, even at pay rates sometimes well above minimum wage. The first contract with NCParking – a part of Maine-based Unified Parking Partners – was for just one year, as kind of a trial run.
The company guaranteed the town a net income of $120,000 for the first season, but record numbers of visitors flocked to town all summer and the total ended up $276,354.76.
The change was controversial at first, especially among people who live in nearby towns and use the lots frequently. Emerald Isle residents are eligible for free passes to use the lots.
It was also marred when some kiosks accidentally overcharged customers over Memorial Day weekend. The town said the company fully refunded every customer who used the lots over the weekend, even those it determined were not overcharged.
The decision by commissioners Tuesday night extends the town’s contract with the company by three years, with rates guaranteed to stay the same for at least two years.
Town officials say in the memo they were pleased with NCParking.
“NCParking staff and management were highly responsive to any and all town staff concerns and addressed such with professionalism and loyalty,” it states.
The 2021 paid parking season began April 1 and ended Sept. 30. In 2022, it will begin April 15 and end Sept. 15.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.