Paid hospital parking inevitable – where will the money come from?

Added: Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:14pm
Printer-friendly version

In response to an online survey published by Pontiac Voice asking “Do you think [our] municipalities and hospital employees should pay for parking [at the Pontiac Community Hospital]?”, out of 517 responses, 515 people said “no”. In the Journal’s online poll 95% of respondents replied “NO!” It's very clear where the population stands on this issue, but is the question aimed in the wrong direction?
During a public consultation in Bristol, Jean Hébert, CISSSO Director General, said that while hospital employees would be required to pay for parking starting April 1, the implementation of a toll booth for the patient and visitor parking lot is being negotiated and discussions are underway with municipalities and other implicated parties.
During a recent meeting at the MRC Pontiac, Sandra Murray, Shawville's mayor, suggested the MRC Pontiac, municipalities and other partners band together to cover the costs of the visitor parking lot's maintenance every year (estimated at about $35,000) so parking remains free.
But, the bottom line is that additional funds will need to be found to cover the parking lot's operating costs – there's no avoiding it; maintaining the status quo, where maintenance costs are absorbed by the health system, is not open for
negotiation - and one way or another, we are going to have to pay for it.
Whether it’s through fees contributed to a toll booth, a charge added to our tax bills, or another collection arrangement, parking at the PCH is going to cost us.
The question is no longer whether we will (or should) have to pay for parking
but rather how we will pay for it, and additionally, whether we want some help covering the bill.
Should the MRC Pontiac (on behalf of the individual municipalities) and Municipality of Pontiac cover the costs of the parking lot, with the expense passed on to taxpayers? Municipal budgets are stretched thin as it is, so in many cases, it would likely mean raised taxes. Would this have been a better place for the thousands of dollars extra it will cost us annually for an elected warden?
About 40% of people using the hospital come from areas outside of the Pontiac; Gatineau, Hull, Aylmer, etc. If the Pontiac funds the visitor parking lot, there is no way to consistently collect from this pool of users, other than hoping they throw some change in donation boxes. Toll booths eliminate this problem, but it's an option the public has clearly stated they are against. Are we willing to subsidize free parking for outside users? Unfortunately we can't have it both ways.
We can grit our teeth and hold our noses, but it appears that paid parking is something we are eventually going to have to swallow. Creating a solution ourselves would be better than being force-fed a decision. So which way would we rather have it, folks?

Alyson Beauregard