City Manager Joseph Slocum circulated a letter this week among the downtown businesses asks for cooperation in order to address the increasingly scarce parking around the city.

Slocum asked businesses, in the letter, to encourage their employees to park in municipal lots to free up spaces for potential customers. Parking has been an issue around the city for the past 20 years, according to business owners.

In his letter, Slocum identifies three of the concerns most commonly raised by business owners: the first was the lack of enforcement for the $5 parking tickets on the part of the city; the second was the fact many employees move their vehicles every two hours to a new space to avoid getting a ticket and the final concern was the fact that spaces are occupied all day by employees and business owners.

“Regulatory power to secure true two hour parking compliance could be financially costly and really harsh if that is what it takes,” Slocum wrote. “Heavy fines, towed vehicles, special enforcement efforts, there are a lot of really unkind possibilities if we can’t find other reasonable solutions.”

During a May 1 City Council Meeting, Slocum told councilors he was working with Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden to address the parking issues and hoped they could come up with a reasonable solution.

“The police chief and I have been looking at some creative ideas to solve the problem,” he said. “We’re still working on them and we hope with more communication we can solve the problem.”

During an interview with The Republican Journal, Garry Conklin, owner of Conklin’s Maine Mercantile, and Deborah Hall, owner of Out on a Whimsey, said they have been approached by customers who said they didn’t go into the store because they couldn’t find a parking space.

Conklin said he relies heavily on foot traffic for his business, but without available parking, he would see his profit margins decrease.

Slocum concluded his letter by requesting owners consider what they can do to help alleviate the parking issues. He expressed the hope the issue could be resolved without the city needing to take harsher action.

“In the next several weeks City Hall will be talking about all the things we can do to enforce, regulate and punish people who just want to do what they want to do,” Slocum wrote. “I support giving the visitor a break and a friendly warning and hope they come back again but follow the rules when they do.”

A meeting will be held Tuesday, May 15, with Our Town Belfast and McFadden to continue discussing parking in the downtown area.