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Debate continues over lack of parking

AHOSKIE – Another month, another discussion about downtown parking problems in Ahoskie.

At their monthly meeting here Tuesday, members of the Ahoskie Town Council once again listened to concerns of downtown business owners, most notably those on Mitchell and Railroad streets.

Tommy Hurdle, proprietor of Tommy & Company (a hair salon), said parking problems persist on North Railroad Street. It was Hurdle who first addressed the parking issue during the council’s May meeting and restated his concerns at the June session.

“(The lack of parking spaces) affects my elderly customers,” Hurdle said.

At earlier meetings, Hurdle said he had spoken with his business neighbors about employees using the prime parking spots.

“I’m tired of talking,” Hurdle said. “Some have obliged by having their employees use the (No Man’s Land) parking lot across the street. Others said they would not do anything unless forced to do so.”

Hurdle asked council to consider designating North Railroad Street as “timed” parking.

Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said, at the blessing of the council members, the first three parking spots on North Railroad Street, the ones closest to Main Street, would become designated parking areas. One would be for handicapped parking while the other two would have a two-hour time limit.

“Those signs have been ordered,” Hammond said.

Meanwhile, Councilman Ronald Gatling wanted to know the number of businesses involved and the number of parking spaces on North Railroad Street.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh responded by saying there were 10 businesses that front the street with only 11 parking spaces located between Main and North streets. He noted there were 55 spaces just across the street in the No Man’s Land parking lot.

A similar parking problem persists one block to the west on North Mitchell Street. It was that area in which Kim Saunders-Jenkins addressed her concerns to council members.

As program manager for We Are All Connected, Inc. (110 North Mitchell Street), Saunders-Jenkins said her business employs over 140 people, but not all need to park at one time.

“We’re an agency, therefore we do not have short-term parkers,” she said. “I strongly feel we deserve better public parking spaces without the harassment from the local business owners.”

Her biggest concern was the two-hour limit on some of the parking spaces on the street. She said those signs were erected years ago when the majority of the businesses offered “in-and-out” services.

“Now, all but one on our street is an agency and not an ‘in-out’ type of business,” she said. “I’m asking the town to remove the two-hour parking limit sign.”

It was noted by Fitzhugh there were 21 parking spaces on North Railroad Street between Main and North streets.

“Maybe we could work out some sort of agreement with Embarq (located directly across the street),” Saunders-Jenkins said. “They have a huge parking lot that stays almost empty for most of the day.”

Ahoskie Council members instructed Hammond and Fitzhugh to further study the issue and bring back their recommendations to the board.