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Change to change will cost city money

New loonies and toonies mean city parking meters will have to be upgraded

It's going to cost the City of New Westminster some cash to help the federal government save money.

This spring, the Royal Canadian Mint is planning to change the composition of loonies and toonies from nickel, to a multi-ply steel composition. While the switch could save the federal government money, it's going to mean increased costs for others - including the City of New Westminster.

Dave Cole, the city's assistant manager of engineering operations, said the change requires the city to upgrade all of its parking meters to recognize the new weights of the coins. Both single-space meters and multi-space meters like pay stations will need to be retooled so they recognize the new coins.

"We have heard through our supplier that they are making this change," Cole said. "What we are doing is an audit of our meters."

The audit will determine whether a software or a hardware upgrade is required to the city's parking meters.

"In the end, we know each individual meter is going to have to be upgraded," Cole said. "We have about 1,100 meters on the streets."

Cole said preliminary estimates suggest the city will need to spend $10,000 to $12,000 to upgrade its meters. Doing nothing isn't an option.

"Our phones will ring off the hook," Cole said. "We will get the money but the people won't get the time."

According to Cole, parking meters recognize the composition or weight of particular coins, and can even determine when a foreign coin has been inserted.

The city is working with its supplier to determine how quickly upgrades can be done.

"We will hopefully work toward having the upgrade done before the release is done so the public won't notice any difference," Cole said.

J.J. MacKay Canada Limited, which supplies the parking meters to the City of New Westminster, said early indications are that about 30 million of each denomination of the new $1 and $2 coins will be released into circulation in early 2012.

Although they will have the same monetary value as the existing coins, the company notes that they will have different "electronic signatures" because of their new material compositions.

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