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Beach Parking? T.C.O.s? There's an App for That

Wed, 02/24/2021 - 17:02
Soon to be retired: East Hampton Village's first video system for enforcing parking limits, which had been mounted on the chief's old SUV.
David E. Rattray

Before moving ahead with its plan to require beachgoers to use a smartphone app to pay for daily parking at village beaches, the East Hampton Village Board has eliminated the Main Beach office staff that managed parking payments and performed other administrative duties. The board took the action in an executive session on Feb. 4.

"Three positions at the beach office have been eliminated with ParkMobile's implementation at Main Beach," Marcos Baladron, the village administrator, said on Sunday, referring to the mobile payment company the village has hired to collect parking fees. The board has yet to approve a proposal to charge for parking in the Reutershan and Schenck lots in the commercial core, and the use of ParkMobile to collect all parking fees. A public hearing on it is scheduled for March 19.

"This is a decision for savings," Mr. Baladron continued. "The village has too many maintenance projects

. . . that we need to apply our capital to. With ParkMobile, we no longer need those positions, and that is our sole reason for closing [the beach office]." He cited the renovation of Herrick Park, the Sea Spray Cottages, and 101 Main Street, the headquarters of the East Hampton Historical Society, as a few of the costly projects in the works.

Rose Lawler Kerin, who has worked at the office for the past 26 years and whose current position as manager was eliminated, said her job entailed other duties beyond processing parking fees, among them managing the payroll and scheduling, and fielding questions from the public. "Organizationally, they need someone like me," she said. "I live and breathe the place, I'm like the Mom of the beach -- if anyone had bothered to talk to me about it, I would have said, 'This is crazy, you can't eliminate the office.' "  Ms. Kerin said she was paid $30 an hour, which came to about $26,000 for the season.

"I'm not sure what closing the office really means," said Ed McDonald, a former beach manager, in a letter to The Star last week. "The beach office has always been a critical part of the entire beach operation. The parking passes and seasonal permits were only a fraction of the office functions. One important function is as a communication center. Calls came in and calls went out all day long. . . . Most important, the office is the center of interaction with the public."

Mr. Baladron said Ms. Kerin's description of her duties was outdated because Jamie Tulp, the current beach manager, handles scheduling and payroll. "She certainly did those tasks prior to Jamie Tulp arriving a couple of years ago, but not anymore," he said. As for the office personnel's interaction with the public, Mr. Baladron said, "We don't believe beachgoers will be impacted at all by this decision."

The village also plans to "significantly" cut back on the number of traffic control officers it employs after the payment app is in use, Mayor Jerry Larsen said during a special meeting of the board on Tuesday. "If a parking enforcement technology creates greater efficiencies, then we should allow the village to save money where it can, so we may apply those funds to our growing list of maintenance projects," said Mr. Baladron. The exact number of T.C.O. positions that will be cut will be decided next month, he said, after consulting with Police Chief Michael Tracey.

Asked if it were premature to eliminate the beach office jobs before the public had the chance to weigh in on the paid parking proposal, Mr. Baladron said, "If the board is ultimately headed in that direction, it would be worse to make personnel decisions during or after we brought them back to the beach office this summer."

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