Kennett Square officials reject free parking for Happiness Day; may affect Christmas season too

FRAN MAYE - The Kennett PaperAndre Davenport, a parking enforcement official in Kennett Square, checks a parking meter on South Union Street in the borough. Free parking for Happiness Day on March 18 was rejected.

KENNETT SQUARE >> How much is it worth to be happy?

In Kennett Square, that number seems to be $500.

By a vote of 6-1, Kennett Square council on Monday night, March 7, rejected a request to grant free parking borough-wide in honor of International Happiness Day on March 18.

“I have been an advocate of happiness my entire life, but this requests represents an expense to us,” said Councilman Wayne Braffman. “If we cover over those meters for one day, we lose $500. I think that is inconsistent with our longstanding policy of reimbursement. We can participate and support (Happiness Day) but asking us to lay out cash is not justified.”

Councilman Geoff Bosley said the borough should not take a financial hit over celebrating Happiness Day.

“Paying for parking should not be a bad thing,” he said. “It is $500, and I have an issue with that.”

But the borough grants free, three-hour borough-wide parking during the Christmas season, which runs for about three weeks. Some councilors said officials should not pick and choose which events get free parking.

“I think Happiness Day is wonderful, but we need to get away from the discussion that parking is a burden and a hassle and a problem,” said Councilman Ethan Cramer. “The borough can’t pick and choose who it can pick up the bill for.”

Council President Dan Maffei was also troubled with the request.

“I am all for being happy, and I try to do that every day,” he said. “I think it is a positive thing, and I support the intent of the YMCA. But this is not an expenditure we should be taking on. We can be happy without spending $500.

Braffman hinted that he would be inclined to nix free parking during the Christmas season as well.

“Come Christmas time, and Historic Kennett Square does its holiday promotion, that is $6,000 we lose,” he said. “I will be a scrooge here too. This all adds up, and it’s a lot of money. I don’t think anyone will accuse us of not being a good town. We can support all of these events without spending money.”

Councilman Jamie Mallon, who voted in favor of granting the free parking request, said the gesture would go a long way to promote the town.

“The fact that we are the Mushroom Capital of the World is very whimsical,” he said. “It’s part of who we are. I can support this one.”

Said Braffman: “We should do this for all organizations. If we close off parking, we need to be reimbursed.”

Parking revenues generate about $150,000 per year for the borough. There are two full-time paid traffic enforcement officers.

Last year, many local schools, businesses and residents participated in Happiness Day. Students at Unionville Elementary School, who had received 400 take-out boxes, donated by Catherine’s Restaurant in Unionville, will bring them back in to school filled with healthy happy foods to bring to lunch. And the Kennett Y had free laughing yoga meditation, Happy Hour, a free showing of the film “Happy,” and free hugs. Some coffee shops in Kennett Square featured pay-it-forward, where customers pay for the people behind them. The Kennett Library featured books that centered on happiness.

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