This electronic parking kiosk is seen along York Beach in this file photo from The York Weekly. Credit: FIle | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — The town will be purchasing another 14 parking kiosks from German manufacturer Hectronic, with the goal of placing them along Long Beach Avenue from the Sun ’n Surf restaurant south to Libby’s Campground.

The decision comes despite the town experiencing problems with connectivity, card readers and other issues since the first Hectronic kiosks were installed in 2017. But Public Works Director Dean Lessard said upgrades to existing machines and more technologically advanced new kiosks should mitigate a lot of the problem.

Even with the shortcomings, the kiosks are still functioning and have become a money maker for the town, said Town Manager Steve Burns. In the current fiscal year, parking revenues were budgeted at $550,000, he said, while the kiosks brought in $650,000. The new kiosks will be acquired using $140,000 approved by voters last May.

Lessard and Burns said while the machines themselves have posed challenges, the bigger problem is a lack of cell capacity. Verizon built a new tower at the old beach police station several years ago, but in the summer the demand on its system is intense.

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“We need to get another carrier,” Burns said, adding there is room for several more antennas on the 120-foot tower. “We’ve been in discussions with another carrier for a year, but our request seems to be lost in corporate never never land. If we can pull down some of the load on that Verizon site, hopefully we’ll free up capacity.”

Selectmen at a recent meeting asked a number of questions. Dawn Sevigny Watson wanted to know whether there would be connectivity problems with the new kiosks. Lessard said testing was done at the southern end of the beach and signals were stronger there than the northern end.

He said the town “has been planning for some of the shortcomings” with the kiosks. For instance, where new sidewalks along that end of the beach were constructed this year, conduits were installed for wires to connect the machines together. “And then we can use a modem that is getting the best signal. Right now, each pay station (kiosk) has like a cellphone in it and we pay for each one. So we could save money by having just one.”

In addition, updated card readers will be installed in the old machines that will allow for a much quicker read of credit card information. The readers will be in the new kiosks. In the past, this has been a problem, as people have forgotten their credit cards due to the long wait to enter information.

[Town, company continue working out bugs in new beachfront parking kiosks]

Lessard did not diminish the concerns he and police Capt. Charles Szeniawski had with some of the machines last summer. “It was very frustrating. We’d be coming up to a holiday weekend, and all of a sudden we’re having problems,” Lessard said. “Charlie and I were ready to say, ‘That’s it. We’re not doing any more of these.’ But he called up other communities and we could not find another good alternative. The demand for data has just exploded. As soon as towers are put up, they’re at capacity.”

Szeniawski and Lessard intend to hold Hectronic’s feet to the fire next year. In a memo to the company, Szeniawski laid out a list of requirements, which include installation of all kiosks by May 15, so they can be thoroughly tested at each location. This early season testing has to occur over several days, particularly in the mornings after they have been “asleep,” which has been a time when the machines have not responded. Hectronic also agrees to train a town employee on cleaning and maintaining the kiosks.

In addition, a Hectronic representative will be in York for the week prior to and including each holiday — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and York Days week. Finally, the company must ensure Canadian credit cards will be accepted.

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