SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – Driving up to the parking garage in Downtown Summerville, you’ll see the word ‘free’ posted in several places.

A convenient place to park, near Summerville’s shops and restaurants, has been free since it was built in 2008.

“It is super convenient,” said one Summerville man. “I’m going right across the street to the shops here, and it’s a convenient place to park for it.”

But an idea being discussed among town leaders could mean patrons have to pay to park.

“The idea is just to charge for the garage, people who use the garage, just to recoup some of that money so the garage is self-sufficient and pays for itself,” said Russ Cornette, the Public Works Director for the Town of Summerville.

Since 2014, an average of $96,000 per year have been spent on maintenance, upkeep, and upgrades of the garage. Currently, that money is coming from the town and out of taxpayers’ pockets.

“Since 2014 we’ve invested about $770,000,” said Cornette.

He says maintenance gets more expensive as the years go on.

“The older a building gets, the more it’s going to cost the town, the taxpayers of the town. Many of the people who use this garage are non-residents. So it would be great to have the garage pay for itself from non-residents.”

When the garage was built, technology including ticket stations and a place for drop gates were installed just in case the town decided to start charging in the future.

“Council, at the time, decided it would be best not to charge people to park. But, at the time, they also decided to install some of the infrastructures to be able to charge in the future.”

Discussions have already started among stakeholders and the town, and more conversations will happen in the coming weeks and months. Cornette says the feedback he’s received so far has been mostly negative, but that a large portion of people who park in the garage are tourists and visitors.

“A lot of people probably that don’t live in Summerville also probably park here when there are events and
Third Thursdays and things like that so is it good or bad…? I think there’s a balance that has to be struck between taking care of things and using them,” said a Summerville resident.

No decisions have been made yet, and the idea may not be implemented.

That decision is up to the town council.