This story was updated with additional information on August 18
While mourners continued to place flowers Thursday at the Fourth Street site where Heather Heyer was killed when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters at Saturday’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, an unidentified worker for the city loudly drilled a hole on the sidewalk to make way for parking meters that go live early next month.
The installation was opposed by many who witnessed the drilling or saw a video posted on social media.
“It is in the poorest taste to continue with mundane city business with no regard for the community’s need to mourn,” said city resident Siân Richards.
Many people reported the drilling to City Hall and the city then took action to stop it.
“I stopped the drilling for the meters near Fourth Street and Water the moment I heard about it,” said City Manager Maurice Jones.
The City Council voted 4-1 in April 2016 to return parking meters to downtown Charlottesville as part of a new parking management strategy. More than 100 meters are to be installed on Market and Water streets as part of a six-month pilot.
Beginning Sept. 5, motorists will pay $1.80 an hour for spaces closest to the Downtown Mall with a maximum stay of two hours. The city will offer one hour free in the Market Street Parking Garage and will lower the price for additional hours from $2.50 to $1.50.
The existing validation program will end, but parking manager Rick Siebert told members of the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville earlier this month that some form of it may continue.
The pilot program will also extend to the side streets between East Seventh Street and Old Preston Avenue, including Fourth Street.
The crossing at Fourth Street has been closed indefinitely following the car incident that killed Heyer and injured 19 others.
James Alex Fields Jr. has been charged in the case.
A chain that usually closes off the road during events at the Sprint Pavilion was not extended. A police vehicle has blocked the road ever since.
The council voted 3-2 in April 2008 to permanently open the southbound crossing of Downtown Mall at Fourth Street after a two-year trial period.
Richards said the city should take a pause before taking any further action on the crossing or the meters, given the current mood in Charlottesville following Heyer’s death and other violence that occurred Saturday.
“The meters and the street opening should be set aside,” she said.
Jones said that neither Fourth Street nor the future of the parking meters will be on the City Council’s regular agenda for its meeting this Monday.
Two holes in all were drilled on 4th Street south of the mall. On Water Street, several grey poles have been installed to make way for equipment that will be supplied by IPS, the firm awarded a contract by the city earlier this year.
In an email send to the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville Friday, city parking manager Rick Siebert Friday said he had authorized the installation.
“This was, of course, in hindsight a very poor decsion,” Siebert said. “Although the work was not on the street and did not involve the actual site of the memorial I failed to anticipate that the noise created would be so disruptive. I understand the need for a degree of solemnity at the site and I regret any further distress to anyone that may have been caused by my poor decision.”
Siebert said all work will cease until the mall crossing is opened. A city traffic alert dated August 16 states the crossing will be closed “until further notice.”
The pilot program is still on track to begin September 5.
“The remainder of the meter installation is planned to proceed over the course of the next two weeks,” he said.