Defense contractor to tackle Washington’s parking meter woes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The cash-strapped nation’s capital turned to the country’s largest defense contractor Wednesday to combat parking meter vandalism.

Mayor Marion Barry announced that the city had signed a seven-year contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. to install, maintain and manage at least 15,500 digital parking meters throughout the District of Columbia.

The district government has been losing millions of dollars annually in recent years to hacksaw vandals who target parking meters. And local officials have been unable to come up with money to replace the destroyed devices.

This year alone, city officials estimate parking revenues will drop from to $6.7 million, from an annual average of $11 million.

“We needed to do something about it,” said City Administrator Michael Rogers. He predicted that the revenues will shoot past $13 million a year once the Lockheed Martin contract is implemented.

If approved by the city council and a congressionally established financial control board overseeing the district government, the contract could take effect by the end of July.

It requires the company to replace all existing meters within 12 months with new models that accept both coin and electronic card payment. At least 97 percent of the new meters must be in working order at all times. If not, Lockheed Martin will face financial penalties, Rogers said.

Motorists now pay as much as 25 cents to park for 15 minutes at meters in prime downtown spaces. Many, however, have been paying nothing to park at beheaded meters that have become a common sight on the streets of Washington.

Barry says the digital meters are sturdier and more difficult to break into than the current, glass-covered models.

Lockheed-Martin, headquartered in the adjacent suburb of Bethesda, Md., won the contract after a controversial four-month selection process. Two women, Delphine Shepard and Norma Mapp, were removed from the six-member selection panel appointed by Rogers after questions arose about their associations with two bidders.

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