Most people aren’t crazy about filling up parking meters in Oak Park with their loose change. But what if your quarters weren’t going to the village’s piggy bank?

The Village of Oak Park is moving away from the traditional 4-foot-tall, silver-bodied, black-head parking meters. In many of its lots, the village is using pay-by-space machines that cover dozens of parking spots and take credit cards.

That leaves Oak Park with a stash of unused, old-school parking meters. The village recently put some of them up on the online auction site, eBay, but only sold about 20 of the hundreds it owns.

Village Manager Tom Barwin is floating the idea of giving a dozen or so meter heads to a charity, such as a food pantry or a homeless shelter. That group could then pass the old meter heads out to businesses in the community that could place them on their counters for shoppers to unload lose change.

Money would drop into a bin below, get collected by the charity, and then be passed out to those in need, Barwin said.

“People aren’t always comfortable giving to panhandlers, because it encourages that kind of behavior,” Barwin said. “So this is another avenue where money could be raised for food and homeless programs.”

The idea is preliminary, but was discussed at a recent Business Association Council meeting, a monthly gathering of leaders from Oak Park’s business districts. Barwin says people seemed intrigued.

He saw the idea in practice in Denver. He said Oak Park is hoping to create a test version of one of the charity meters.

Cara Pavlicek, interim parking services manager for Oak Park, estimates the village has 1,700 metered spaces. The parking lot on North Boulevard, just east of Marion, is one where about 70 meters were replaced with pay-by-space machines. Another lot on North Boulevard, just east of Harlem, had 79 meters taken out of commission.

Each pay-by-space machine can serve up to 99 parking spots. There’s also one in use at the lot on Marion Street, just south of Lake.

Oak Park has five of the pay-by-space machines on its hands, two of which will likely be installed at the new parking lots where the Colt building used to be on Lake Street. Pavlicek was unsure which of Oak Park’s 117 parking lots would get the other three machines.

The village keeps old meter heads in work rooms, to be able to use mechanisms from them to repair broken meters. Those that don’t work anymore are declared “surplus” and sold on eBay for a small amount of money. In 2009, Oak Park declared a surplus of about 200 meter heads.

Those that aren’t unloaded on eBay are sold for scrap metal, Pavlicek said. She estimates that Oak Park has 150 to 200 meter heads in storage.


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