MANSFIELD -- Half of the municipal parking lot, located at Fourth Street between Diamond and Main Streets, has been repaved and opened to the public, said Lori Cope, Mansfield Safety Services director.
"We no longer have reserved spots," Cope said. "We got together with members of the community and determined we would do free public parking for a year, then come back and see how the year had gone -- if there are any tweaks that need to be made."
Cope said the change will allow for the city to become exempt from paying property taxes.
Prior to the repaving, most of the spots were marked 'Reserved" in yellow paint. The spots at one point were paid for by businesses. As of Sept. 1, Cope said other than the handicap and purple heart designated spaces, the lot is open the public.
On Aug. 25, Cope hand-delivered a letter to downtown businesses about the change.
"We believe this decision will provide a benefit to the downtown business and citizen by providing this large parking area where patrons can freely park and shop locally," Cope's letter reads. "Signs will be posted to identify the area as free parking for up to 12 hours. This stipulation is being noted in order to deter overnight parking.
"In addition, we are pleased to announce that a portion of the lot has be resurfaced and the remaining potion is proposed to be paved in 2018."
Cope said some businesses are concerned about losing reserved spots, but for the most part the decision is welcomed.
"The City has made several changes during Cope's tenure," said Fred Boll, director of Buckeye Children's Museum on W. 4th Street. "She has done great things as Safety Services Director. We'll have to wait about six months to see the effects of this effort."
Boll noted many people had been parking in the lot before and because of this "No new spots are really being created."
"This is a great thing they did," he continued. "But my question is, how do we advertise this information so people outside the county to use it?
"If I Google 'Free Parking in Mansfield,' the results still say Ontario. If someone from Wooster comes to Downtown Mansfield, how are they going to find the Municipal lot?"