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Beaufort City Council put the finishing touches Tuesday on its annual Christmas gift to holiday shoppers.
During a special session, City Council voted unanimously to continue the tradition of offering two hours of free parking downtown on and near Bay Street. The proposal came at the request of Main Street Beaufort, U.S.A. to help encourage area residents and visitors to patronize downtown businesses, officials said.
Unlike previous years where parking meters were covered with bags, city and Main Street officials will begin adorning the meters and the city's parking kiosks with bows and signs on Nov. 23, said Lanelle Fabian, Main Street's executive director.
Removing the bags will allow people to park longer than two hours, as long as they feed the meters, according to city officials.
In previous years, people could get tickets if they parked longer than two hours in one spot or would have to move their vehicles if they were still shopping, eating or touring the area.
Last year, the city had to pay about $6,800 to cover expenses for monitoring parking spots during the free period.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said city officials must do their best to limit confusion.
"This needs to be as idiot-proof as possible," Keyserling said. "If they feed the meter, they're going to get the time, and if they don't, they're going to get a ticket."
Despite previous suggestions that the free-parking period end after Christmas, it will extend from Thanksgiving to New Years.
Councilman Mike Sutton, whose wife owns a Bay Street business, voted for the proposal despite problems he had with the changes.
"I don't like it, but I can't give you a solution," Sutton said. "I'd prefer to just bag and label them. It's going to be chaotic, no matter what."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.