Change agent

Greg Munster

photo by dane stivers

After dumping a parking-meter canister full of quarters, dimes and nickels into a large secure cart, Greg Munster shifts his attention to the chilly morning air, tightening up his coat before inserting the change cartridge back into the parking meter, a firm click indicating the parking meter is good to go. With a slow, deliberate push of the heavy cart that holds dollars upon dollars of accumulated downtown Chico parking-meter change, the tall, brawny Oroville native moves onto the next one. Munster, one of two regular change collectors, has worked with General Services/Public Works for the past 26 years, after a decade of owning his own antique-clock repair shop. While the meters have changed over the years—switching from mechanical to electronic models—Munster’s positive attitude and enjoyment of his work remain the same.

Was the transition to electronic meters difficult?

Well, we had to have training, so we’d go out to the factory and learn how to deal with electronics. There’s a bunch of stuff we did on the computer that we never did before, so I had to be proficient with computers because I didn’t grow up with computers. The mechanicals were in constant repair—we were taking them apart, cleaning them, fixing what was wrong with them, putting it back together and putting it back on the timer, before you’re ready to put it back on the street. With the electronics, we have the possibility of recording everything—so we can go to the computer and know exactly what happened to that meter.

What’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job?

Well, there’s a lot of self-gratification in coming to work and knowing what you have to do. I’m not the kind of person who likes to deal with a lot of new things. So after this many years, you can pretty much put everything on a list and just go down the list and fix whatever’s wrong with it, or determine it’s time to replace it.

What should people know about the meters that they might not know?

Well, if you beat on them, they won’t work any better! But if there’s something wrong with the meter and we find it, we’re not going to ticket somebody for something that’s wrong with the meter. We’re not here to stick it to anybody; we’re here to provide a service that is a non-general fund to the city. What we do does not come out of the general funds, which is where all the money hits are being taken.