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Groton - The Town Council voted Tuesday to provide free parking for merchants, employees and visitors in the Mystic Art Association parking lot through July while West Main Street gets repaved.
During the council's Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor Heather Bond Somers proposed the idea of leasing the lot as a way of alleviating parking problems while the street is closed to parking.
The repaving is part of the Mystic Streetscape project. Many merchants told the council last week the project has cost them substantial revenues this past winter and spring.
Bond Somers said providing free parking beyond completion of the paving project, expected to be finished by June 30, could encourage more people to visit downtown and allow merchants a better chance to recoup some of their losses.
The tentative plan, which will be finalized next week during the Town Council meeting, calls for the town to pay up to $50,000 to the art association, which owns the lot.
Pettini Contracting had sought an extension on the project, but the town, rather than grant the extension, extended the company's work hours to get the job done as close to the projected June 30 completion date as possible.
"We are trying to expedite the project," Bonds Somers said. "There's just not a lot we can do. We're doing everything we can to get it done by the end of the month."
She said the council wanted to help the merchants and let them know that they understood what businesses are going through.
"I've wracked my brain trying to figure out what we could do to ease their pain," she said. "This was the only tangible target available to the town's leadership to help the merchants, residents, employees and tourists, to show them we do care."