By Katie Collins News Eagle reporter
Throughout the streets in Hawley, there are approximately 150 meters stationed, waiting for people to park and ultimately pay; nickels, dimes or quarters while they enjoy what the town has to offer patrons. The meters, according to Flip Kellerman, the Road Master in Hawley, were first installed in the early 1950’s when he was a young lad. Kellerman actually put the first penny in a meter and today he installs them. But today, it is Andrea Racht’s job as the Meter Enforcement Officer to patrol the streets, writing tickets whenever she discovers expired meters. In 2004, new meters were installed and fines went from $1.00 to $5.00. Through the years, the revenue from the meters tends to vary, just like in 2004, $11,271.66 was collected. In 2012, $24,868.27 was collected. Racht said the financial statistics show the town’s fluctuating economy and the differences of when people are stopping in town, since the revenue cannot be based on the number of tickets written, because there is always a chance she may have missed an expired meter. The revenue received from the meters goes to the town’s general budget, which pays for various things within the borough, including Racht’s salary. A "very, very part-time job," Racht laughed as she explained that she is the only Meter Enforcement Officer, working 15 hours throughout the week. With anything, there are positive and negatives to having meters. Positives include the revenue that the town receives. Racht said, if not for the meters, taxes would have to be raised to afford some general fees in the town. Negatives for instance, are people telling Racht that they will never shop in Hawley again because of the fines. When someone is ticketed, if they do not pay immediately, they may receive a letter and ultimately have to pay a larger fine, possibly $50. If they still do not pay, Racht said sometimes the offender has to go to court. She added that she was not informed of the court appearances when she applied for the job. But, she only has to go a few times a year. Mayor David Kevin Hawk said it is even possible that a person may lose their driver’s license because "it’s serious" as they are actual tickets. For the public’s convenience, there are various ways to pay their fines, including going to the borough building, mailing a check and putting the fee in one of three red boxes located in the town. Racht made note that "it’s not really that hard to pay your ticket." Many of the local businesses have told Racht that the meters are convenient because people are unlikely to park their cars in front of stores all day, since it could get costly. Ironically though, Racht said there are store owners who park in front of their own stores.
Trish Downey, owner of Trish's Bagels said having to pay "stinks, but its only a nickel." Her husband, Jim Downey agreed, adding that people do get upset, but the collections are a "necessity and revenue" for the town. Owner of Teeters' Furniture and Teeters' Funeral Chapel, Dick Teeter said he thinks the meters are "a necessary evil." He explained that the meters prevent store owners and employees from parking on the streets for long periods of time. As for the cost of parking and the potential fines, Teeter said "the cost is so minimal that its insignificant and shouldn't deter" those who park their vehicles. As a member of the Downtown Hawley Partnership, Teeter said things like courtesy tickets have been tried, but were not successful. If the Partnership were to get cooperation from the borough council, he said the Partnership could try something again because "anything we can do to assist or boost business is important." Due to Pennsylvania’s weather, the meters are replaced about every seven to 10 years. But, because of thievery and vandalism the meters may have to be replaced sooner. Using two LED batteries, similar to those in household fire detectors, Racht said the batteries are changed every year. When Racht gives tickets, she said everyone’s response can be different. Sometimes there are women who are snotty, while others have sworn at her, with one man even telling Racht she should be dead. Of her job and peoples’ responses, Racht said, "I don’t give people tickets, they have to earn them." But, she added that after time, people may become civil towards her as they interact more. But, noting everyone’s different financial standing, she said she does feel bad sometimes when a car may have duct tape holding parts together. Hawk, who lives in town, actually has a meter in front of his house, where he too, has been ticketed. He said the town is lucky to have Racht because "we get our money's worth from her." Racht said she has enjoyed her job because she gets to be outdoors, walking the streets and interacting with people. She considers herself a "liaison" between the borough and the public. Although she has a job to do, Racht said she wants people to know that she is there for them, but she added that people should not ask her for directions.