Thursday, July 3, 2014

Iowa City Plans to Eliminate Downtown Donation Meters

Four years ago, the Iowa City City Council created an alternative to downtown panhandling. They placed recycled parking meters through the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall and invited people to plug their coins into the meters instead of giving directly to panhandlers. The money raised from these meters were to be donated to local agencies that assist the poor and homeless in this community, including Shelter House, the Salvation Army, and the Free Lunch Program. This idea was patterned after a similar program in Denver, CO. That particular meter program has been responsible for raising nearly $100,000 in direct and indirect donations to involved social service agencies.

Unfortunately, Iowa City's nine "donation stations" have failed to achieve that lofty monetary goal. In fact, the meters have only raised $2,811 during the past four years! Because of this, the City of Iowa City plans to decommission their parking meter donation stations:
“Simply stated, the community costs and efforts to maintain the donation meters is not worth the small amount of revenue that is collected,” (Assistant Iowa City Manager Geoff) Fruin wrote in the memo. Fruin wrote that he will hold off on removing the meters until the Iowa City Council reviews the recommended action during its next meeting on July 15.

(Iowa City Manager Tom) Markus said the city wants to continue supporting social service agencies but would like to find more effective programs that make a more meaningful impact. “I think the parking meter program was well-intentioned, but there might be a more efficient way to raise money for these agencies,” he said.
T?he Iowa City Police Department, the Iowa City Downtown District, and the Johnson County Local Homeless Coordinating Board have all back this recommendation.

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