The Cape May County shore town of Stone Harbor has gone through a bizarre few months as the municipality has been presented with the consequences of the change over to a Virtual Paid Parking system. The gross increase of parking tickets issued because of this change over from metered paid parking to virtual paid parking has opened the door for a rollercoaster summer for the popular Jersey Shore town.

The latest Stone Harbor City Council Meeting continued the conversation about the topic of Parking Violations and Virtual Parking in the downtown section of the municipality.  They announced over an hour into the City Council meeting the latest numbers for Parking Tickets in Stone Harbor, which showed that in the month of August 705 tickets were issued for Parking Violations, compared to last summer when 350 parking tickets were issued (101% increase).

The controversial issue began when it became public knowledge that there were 564 Parking Tickets issued in the month of May and as we also wrote about this summer 915 Parking Tickets were issued for the month of June, which is a 62 percent increase from May's total number of violations.  Before the 2023 Summer Season at the Jersey Shore, the city of Stone Harbor made the decision to transition from paid meter parking to virtual meter parking. The project was spearheaded by Stone Harbor Public Works Director Manny Parada in an effort to align the town with what their neighboring municipalities have done in their towns.  The ParkMobile App is how visitors pay for parking in Sea Isle City, Cape May, and Ocean City so that was the same plan for Stone Harbor. But unlike those other Jersey Shore towns, Stone Harbor did not publicize this change and many people had no idea that the parking payments were now virtual or did not understand they had to download the ParkMobile app in order to pay for parking.

With the unwanted negative attention to Stone Harbor in the middle of the Summer Tourism season, people in the City Government were looking for answers to solve this issue with such an extreme number of parking tickets being issued. While the town decided to post more ParkMobile signs and employed people who with the old parking meters would be referred to as "Meter Maids" to now work as "Information officers", this did not "fix" the problem.

Now this is only part of the drama that has been swirling around the Stone Harbor government this year as the City Council Members voted 5-1 to censure the Stone Harbor Mayor in response to her public comments made at the council's July 3rd meeting where she expressed concerns about a resolution to appoint Manny Parada as the permanent city administrator. Yes, the same Manny Parada who was "in charge" of the transition of Metered to Virtual Parking which has now turned into a fiasco and created a negative perception of Stone Harbor, was being given a second government job. Parada, who is Stone Harbor Public Works Director and now City Administrator, has come under scrutiny and Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour requested a Performance Review of Manny Parada. Under normal circumstances there would be concerns about one person holding two city jobs simultaneously on a permanent basis, this toxic political climate in Stone Harbor has made this into the latest "Hot Potato" or "Sacred Cow", depending on who you ask.

So in the latest chapter of "As the World Turns" in Stone Harbor, Councilman Reese Moore took time at the latest City Council meeting to try and change the narrative from focusing on the number of parking violations to a new statistic: "tickets per parking space". Moore tried to argue Stone Harbor has issued the same number of "tickets per parking space" as Cape May does. Both Moore and Parada then tried to steer the conversation to how much money has been generated through the ParkMobile app as a justification for the Virtual Parking situation.

But what City Councilman Moore and City Administrator Parada did not mention is that the city of Cape May has two separate citizen advisory committees that have been tasked to help the municipality address the parking problems as a result of their transition from metered to virtual parking and find ways to alleviate the problems.  While the oldest Jersey Shore town is attempting to deal with its parking problems, some people in Stone Harbor government only care about the money generated from the downtown parking. Vacationers and Locals who come to Stone Harbor do not care about politics or revenue generated by virtual parking, they come to enjoy the stores and restaurants around 96th Street, check out a movie with popcorn at the Harbor Square Theater, and go visit the beach.

So the saga continues in Stone Harbor as the town looks forward to the offseason when the Virtual Parking Meters are turned off but the concerns about government transparency and how people are appointed to positions in the government will not be going away any time soon.  At least no other members of the Stone Harbor government were not censured at the most recent city council meeting.

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