Maple Ridge has written to the health minister about hospital parking fees, but there’s no mention of reducing charges.
Mayor Ernie Daykin wrote to Health Minister Terry Lake on Oct. 17 and first thanked Lake for meeting with council members earlier at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. The letter addressed concerns raised by residents about parking fees at Ridge Meadows Hospital and “the hardships it causes some of our residents.”
But the letter doesn’t mention anything about reducing fees and just acknowledges that parking lot revenue helps with health costs.
Instead, the letter says: “Based on our residents’ feedback, we respectfully request that signage in the hospitals be enhanced to inform patient families or visitors that long-term rates are available when the stays are prolonged.”
The letter also says that social workers should be able to tell clients of parking discounts available for those on limited incomes.
Daykin said the point about high parking fees was made during the meeting with Lake.
“I think it was clear why we raised the issue,” Daykin said.
“If it’s free parking, you’re going to fill up the lot with people who use it for park and ride,” he said.
“In every community there will be potential use of the lot for other than parking use.”
But Coun. Corisa Bell said the letter missed the whole point.
“They’re not representing what the public asked for,” she added. “Nowhere in the letter to the minister does it mention reduced parking, free parking, nothing.”
Bell first raised the issue a year ago after people complained about getting parking tickets in the lots operated by Impark.
Last December, members of a local group, the Rx Rockers, were slapped with $60 fines after doing a charity Christmas concert at Baillie House. They were ticketed despite having parking passes issued by the Fraser Health facility.
Council earlier in the year rejected a move by Bell to have all of council meet with Fraser Health, the Minister of Health, as well as local MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, and MP Randy Kamp to investigate whether Maple Ridge can ban pay parking at the hospital.
The issue was raised again during September’s meeting with the minister at the UBCM conference.
Projected revenue from parking for the Fraser Health for 2012-13 is $11 million. Projected revenues from Fraser Health’s Maple Ridge parking sites for 2012-13 fiscal year is about $500,000, and the cost of operating these services is about $78,000.
Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said previously that paid parking is not simply a revenue source, it also ensures a rotation of vehicles so that people aren’t using the parking lot when not attending Fraser Health facilities.
Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said last month that parking should be operated on more of a cost-recovery basis.
“It’s an important conversation for people. Once something becomes a revenue stream, you don’t want it entrenched that way moving forward, when the public is starting to say, ‘We don’t like what you’re doing here,” she said in October.