A couple of weeks ago, The Chronicle ran into Cheryl Clifton and Jim Musser walking along Liberty Street near Ashley. They work for Republic Parking as meter collectors – you’ve probably seen them making the rounds as they transfer coins from the city’s 1,900 or so parking meters into portable metal collection bins.
What they also transfer, it turns out, are stickers. Namely, stickers that people affix to parking meters. Rather than throwing them away, Clifton and Musser (and others who’ve done this job previously) have slapped them onto the 21 collection bins. The day we chatted, the bin they were using had stencil-style stickers of a smiling Ronald Reagan. Apparently, it’s one of the tamer ones they’ve come across.
We thought it would be cool to see the entire set of sticker-adorned bins, but by the time we got around to calling, well, things had changed.
Mark Lyons, general manager of Republic Parking’s Ann Arbor operations, told us the bins had been overdue for cleanup, and that the stickers were being scrapped off and the bins repainted. However, not all had been rehabbed yet, so he graciously indulged us in our request to drop by and have a closer look.
That closer look took place at the Forest Street parking structure, in the office of Judy Comstock, Republic Parking’s on-street operations manager. Clifton, Musser and Lyons were there too, as were two rusty, beat-up, not-yet-scraped-and-repainted collection bins. They’d seen some street.
It turns out there’s a cycle to stickers, if you’re paying attention. When Jimmy Johns passed out promotional stickers, a lot of them ended up on parking meters. Ditto for stickers distributed last fall urging voters to support a medical marijuana ballot initiative. And, of course, political stickers were ubiquitous last year – there was evidence of those on one of the bins in Comstock’s office.
When The Chronicle asked for details about the range of things found on meters, no one really wanted to venture an example. “Just about anything goes,” Lyons said. This was a polite group. When pressed, Musser recalled one sticker that said “Save a trash can. Bang a drummer.” Funny, but not shocking – so we’ll have to leave it to your imagination.
For security reasons, they didn’t want to talk about how the coin collection works, except to say that it’s hard to get into the keyhole if there’s a sticker over it. Or airplane glue, Clifton noted. But whatever someone puts on the meters, Clifton and Musser will be along to take it off.
We didn’t see the freshly painted collection bins, but we did learn that there’s a fair amount of gray paint in stock that needs to be used up. So don’t look for maize and blue color schemes anytime soon.