WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — The board of alderman is reaching out to local businesses and residents to consider several changes to its paid parking program, as proposed by Pivot Parking last week.
Suggestions presented by Pivot CEO Scott Diggs at Thursday’s meeting included a rate modification for parking locations considered premium, such as areas closest to the beach and/or with amenities available, like showers. Diggs also suggested purchasing new license plate recognition technology, making changes to signage and giving raises to company workers.
Mayor Darryl Mills and Alderman Ken Dull told Port City Daily the board is discussing potential changes with stakeholders and will take action either in a special meeting in the next two weeks or at the board’s February meeting.
PCD asked Mills if the premium space idea originated with Pivot since the company also handles parking for Carolina Beach. Just last week the CB council opted to raise prices for premium spots to $7 per hour to make up for lost revenue by dropping paid parking in the off-season. Diggs also told the board of alderman last week Pivot would employ a premium and non-premium concept in Surf City.
Mills said Pivot’s recommendations come from frequent communication with the town; he noted the premium parking spot idea had been discussed for years. Pivot recommends premium rates of $6 per hour and a maximum rate of $30 per day; non-premium areas would remain at the current rate of $5 per hour and $25 per day.
“I don’t know if we’ll pass that,” Dull said. “I think that’s why we wanted to wait to make the decision, to see how that impacts everybody.”
According to Town Manager Timothy Owens, Pivot oversees a little more than 1,800 parking spaces in Wrightsville Beach. The company requested 514 — about 29% — of those spaces to become premium, including:
- North Wrightsville Beach Lot (Access 2): 27 spaces
- Ocean View Lot (Access 3): 28 spaces
- North Lumina Lot (Access 4): 91 spaces
- Moore’s Inlet Lot (Access 8): 56 spaces
- East Salisbury Street (Access 16): 103 spaces
- West Salisbury Street (Access 16): 82 spaces
- Wynn Plaza: 18 spaces
- South Lumina Lot: (Access 36): 82 spaces
- Jack Parker: (Access 44): 27 spaces
Premium areas would have different colored signage to indicate a different rate; they would also include a different parking code for text-to-park transactions.
Diggs noted Pivot would phase out the Flowbird app in 2024 — which served as an intermediary payment service — in favor of text-to-park transactions and pay stations at surface lots.
Mills requested Pivot remove Flowbird after customers experienced technical difficulties with the app, including double payments. Port City Daily reached out to Flowbird, Pivot and Owens to ask how much money it overcharged. No one responded by press.
“It was not a small amount,” Mills said. “It was a relatively large amount, because we weren’t going to let people be ripped off.”
Mills said he believed every customer was reimbursed either through Flowbird or by town funds, though he did not know the exact figure.
While rate increases generally cause a mix of reactions, Mills said some residents are in favor of raising parking costs to keep taxes lower, some believing it will not affect them, and others arguing it could negatively impact their businesses.
“It is never a monolithic response,” he said.
The town’s rates last increased in July 2020; hourly rates rose from $3 to $5, daily rates from $17 to $25, and weekly rates from $100 to $150.
Wrightsville Beach’s 2023-2024 budget noted meter revenue grew substantially in recent years due to rate increases, a higher number of visitors, and the addition of new parking spaces. It anticipated the town would collect $5,957,894 from parking revenue over the year; PCD asked the town how much it earned but did not receive an answer by press.
Owens previously told PCD parking funds helped cover other revenue shortfalls. In 1998, the town was granted an exemption to state law allowing it to use on-street parking revenues for public purposes other than parking maintenance.
Another potential change to the 2024 parking season could come to golf carts. The mayor pointed to Pivot’s plan to include the carts in the parking company’s system as an example of a request originating from demand expressed by residents.
At Thursday’s meeting, Diggs said there were an increasing number of golf carts on the beach and stickers could be placed to register them through the company’s license plate recognition system. Previously residents purchased hang tags for golf carts to park on-street in areas where parking permits are eligible. Diggs recommended residents could buy a golf cart sticker for $50, while other details of how the carts are charged for parking could be decided by the board.
Diggs said Pivot has used technology to assist with tracking license plates, parking spaces, and integrating payment systems for the past three years. He requested $90,000 for improvements to Pivot’s license plate recognition technology system, including a new low-speed vehicle with cameras to serve as a primary enforcement vehicle.
Mills said Pivot’s use of smart parking technology over the past few years improved its performance.
“The license plate recognition has just made enforcement so much more efficient,” Mills said.
Pivot also requested raises for hourly positions from a minimum of $1 per hour increase to $2.5 per hour to help with staff retention. The cost of raises would equate to a $41,841 increase in gross wages from the previously submitted 2024 budget.
Port City Daily reached out to Pivot Vice President Tina Reid to ask for more details about their recommendations but was told all questions must go through the town manager. Owens did not respond to questions including how parking revenue is allocated, how much Pivot earns in management fees with Wrightsville Beach, and how much the town received in parking revenue last year by press.
Pivot began serving as Wrightsville Beach’s parking vendor in January 2020; the original contract was for two years with three automatic one-year renewals. At the alderman’s December 2023 meeting, it requested a five-year extension, which Mayor Mills considered too long. Instead, the board unanimously approved a three-year extension to the contract through December 2026 with two optional one-year extensions.
The contract amendment also changed the formula for management fees. According to the December meeting minutes, the original contract provided Pivot 2.85% of revenue over $3.2 million, whereas the amended contract allocated 2.85% over $3.45 million.
Beyond Wrightsville, Pivot has swiftly expanded its presence in the Cape Fear region since its founding in July 2020. The company took over parking in Carolina Beach in November 2021, began enforcing paid parking in Surf City in February 2021, and recieved a $2.3 million parking management contract with the City of Wilmington in May 2023.
Pivot co-founders Scott Diggs — a Wrightsville Beach resident — and Brandon Lauterbach formerly worked with Lanier, which also held Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington’s parking contracts, as well as Carolina Beach’s former parking contractor REEF.
PCD requested Pivot’s contracts with the towns of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Surf City but did not receive them by press.
Tips or comments? Email journalist Peter Castagno at firstname.lastname@example.org.