Downtown “unofficial” parking meter operates at fiscal year deficit

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Downtown Winters has one, yes, one “unofficial” parking meter. The story behind it goes back to 2015 when a couple of pranksters attached it to an empty pole as an April Fools’ Day prank.

The prank wasn’t mean-spirited. In fact, parking coins collected over the years from unassuming folks have been donated to charitable causes, such as the annual fireworks fund.

City Manager Kathleen Salguera Trepa recalled one evening in 2020, and early in her time here, when she and her daughter were parking in the downtown area and came upon the metered parking spot – and the only available parking spot. Without adequate change, Trepa backed out and found an open street parking spot around the corner.

Only months later did Trepa learn of the story behind the meter and that it was the only meter in town.

The meter is situated directly in front of Ace Hardware at 35 E Main Street. Ace Hardware Manager, Gino Mediati, said unknowing customers come into the store asking for change to feed the meter. Mediati said the presence of the meter frequently keeps the space open for those who know they won’t get ticketed when parking there.

What started out as an April Fools’ Day prank has had good intentions attached to it. Last week, The Express obtained a copy of the “official” 2020/21 fiscal financial report in the form of a profit & loss statement. Although the pandemic seems to have taken a bite out of the bottom line, the meter still managed to post revenue in the amount of $73.15, although down 73 percent from $268.70 in 2019/20.

This past fiscal year the meter fund operated at a deficit. Expenditures totaled $325 and were itemized as $75 to the Winters History Museum, $50 to the Winters Gorilla Gardeners, $100 to the Winters Senior Foundation and $100 to the Winters Holiday Food Basket. In the past, revenue generated by the meter has been donated to the annual Winters Fireworks Fund.

What started out as a prank has added to the charm of downtown Winters. “I’m glad the contributions go to local causes and that the meter creates random good stories,” Trepa said.

You can still drop coins into the meter and teach your children what it was like to park in the good old days – when coins fed meters, not plastic. You can also drop/donate some coins in the meter to feel good. After all, it helps to support worthy local causes.

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