Water leaks wipe out 63 (so called smart) parking meters in downtown Clarksville

Water leaks wipe out 63 parking meters in downtown Clarksville

A third of the digital parking meters in downtown Clarksville have stopped working because their sensors can’t handle water leakages.

The sensors on 63 of the 217 smart meters that allow commuters an hour of free parking have malfunctioned.

According to city parking manager David Smith, water intrusion below the asphalt is to blame.

“No matter how much we tried to seal out the water, we had issues getting water in the unit, and it would essentially melt it and render it nonfunctional,” Smith said.

Each parking spot has an underground, magnetic sensor that automatically resets for a 60-minute countdown when a car is parked in that space.

The water intrusion is shorting out the sensors, which then damages the wiring in the smart meter itself.

The devices were purchased and installed in May 2014 with an aim to allow first hour free parking — an effort to bring more people into downtown.

However, the malfunction has now caused the city to miss out on $5,000 over the past six months in parking revenue.

City spokesman Richard Stevens said the 63 parking meters are functional, but the sensors in them that enable first-hour-free have failed, which has resulted in the lost revenue.

The cost to dig up the asphalt, replace the sensors and repair the meter wiring is $300 per machine, Smith told the Parking Commission on Tuesday.

That’s almost $19,000 to fix the sensors that are currently broken, with no guarantee they won’t break again.

But Smith offered a better solution. He said a Doppler sensor is much cheaper to maintain than the existing sensors.

The Doppler sensors will serve the same purpose, but the sensors will be on the meter head instead of under the asphalt, Smith said.

“When the battery dies, you put a new lithium battery in which is like $30 versus $300, so there is considerable saving for the same kind of sensing technology,” he said.

Since installing the existing sensors is expensive, the city is evaluating the functionality and cost-effectiveness of a sensor system with new and better technology, according to Stevens.

“The evaluation is ongoing and no decision has been made yet,” Stevens said.

In 2014, the installation of the digital meters came primarily at the recommendation of the Two Rivers Company and the Parking Task Force the TRC formed.

The initial installation cost $166,431, the Leaf-Chronicle reported in 2014.

“I don’t think anyone has concern over the smart meters themselves, they (work) very well and accept credit and debit cards, so that increases our functionality,” he said.

The city is exploring a variety of options for going with the Doppler system and repairing the smart meters.

Reach government reporter Pranaav Jadhav at pjadhav@theleafchronicle.com (245-0742) or on twitter @pranaavj.

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