The revelation that the City of St. John's has to expend up to $30,000 to shorten hundreds of parking meter polls has become an unnecessary communications gaffe.
The modernization of the city's archaic meters was made necessary by changes to the composition of Canadian coins and to allow credit card payments for parking. The new meters tilt upwards, unlike the old ones which had side facing controls. The height combined with the tilt created a challenge for our city's shorter residents who complained to City Hall.
City Hall responded by saying that they will cut the meters down to size. Why the public works department did not cut each poll as it was replacing the old meters is confusing.
The Council launched a public awareness campaign to let the public know changes were coming. In fact, they informed residents as they installed the new meters so people who had purchased old parking cards could replace them with new ones. There was no mention of concerns or issues with the design or height of the state-of-the-art solar powered meters.
It was only after complaints from the vertically challenged started rolling in that the matter came to the public's attention. Newspapers, blogs and media across the country started carrying stories about how the workers had installed the new meters without cutting poles to a uniform 34 inches, the optimum accessibility height as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city became a bit of a laughingstock, fodder for a few smile. Those silly Newfoundanders.
Turns out, according to a VOCM Radio Report tonight, that the embarrassing stories and negative press could have been avoided.
St John's city Councillor Bernard Davis, chairman of the standing committee on community services, is reported as saying "they put a strategy in place to fix that, but decided to do so
after the installation so there wouldn't be a delay in getting the new
meters in place. He says the cost to fix the height after the fact is no different than had they delayed installation to cut the poles first.
Which makes me wonder, if they knew they were going to have the problem, why go forward in the first place? It would almost convince you that someone said, lets install them and if any one complains, we will adjust them.
It appears this PR fiasco could have been avoided.
Being the brunt of a national joke sucks.
The red faces are priceless.