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      Proposal would add meters to disabled parking spots

      Columbia City Council Members are looking at a proposal to install meters at all downtown disabled parking spots.

      Right now, most of the spaces are free.

      Like many of her friends at Columbiaâ??s Oakland Senior Center, Grace Neal wants the city council to repeal a 20-year-old policy of having no meters at downtown disabled parking spots. Neal and other senior citizens say metered parking would help stop people without disabled plates and tags from stealing their spots.

      Neal said, â??I think that would be fair. Everybody else has to pay. Since itâ??s been abused, then everybody needs to pay.â??

      Downtown Columbiaâ??s Broadway Street only has 2 disabled parking spots in front of City Hall. The other downtown disabled parking spaces are in garages and some of them have meters.

      Supporters of metered disabled parking spots said they would also help stop the illegal use of disabled parking hang tags. Some people borrow hang tags from disabled relatives and abuse the system.

      Chuck Graham is a disabled driver and the Chairman of the cityâ??s Disabilities Commission. He said Columbiaâ??s disabled parking policies are outdated. He said everyone should pay for parking because todayâ??s meters comply with the American Disabilities Act with coin slots and swiping cards.

      Graham said, â??We can pay our own way like anybody else. The ADA is not about giving away free things. The ADA says we should have equal access. We have meters that comply with the ADA. The old ones didnâ??t.â??

      The proposal asks for 94 disabled parking spaces in Downtown Columbia on the streets and in garages. 41 of those spots would need new meters at a cost of $40,000.

      Council members are expected to vote on the disabled parking meter proposal during their meeting on Tuesday night.