BELLEFONTE - Freelancer Audrey Snyder was talking outside the Centre County Courthouse during a break in Jerry Sandusky's trial last week when she paused to take a handful of coins from an Associated Press reporter.
A few minutes later, she walked to the side of the courthouse and deposited the coins in a meter next to the reporter's car, replenishing his meter time to the maximum two hours.
Snyder's feeding the meter to avoid a parking ticket represents one of the inconveniences of covering a big trial in a small town with a judge who doesn't permit courtroom reporters to come and go as they please.
But it really hasn't been necessary to have an assistant pumping coins every two hours - or more often - even though the media has mobbed Bellefonte for the trial.
If you're willing to walk a few blocks, that is.
The parking meters near the courthouse, in the heart of the downtown shopping and office district, are short-term - gold ones that allow up to 15 minutes and gray that allow a maximum two hours.
If you use those, you're almost guaranteed to get parking tickets if no one's tending your meter, because courtroom sessions often last more than two hours.
But there are two types of long-term meters - red ones that allow up to 10 hours and yellow ones that allow up to 12 hours - located a little farther away, many of them in municipal lots.
There are also free spaces, generally a little farther away still. They tend to be in residential neighborhoods, which could create problems for the occupants of those homes who likely expect to be able to use them when they want.
Nevertheless, they're open to the public, said Assistant Borough Manager Don Holderman.
There are other free spaces that are not located adjacent to houses. Some of them were open on Wednesday, including several a few blocks from the courthouse next to a playground and a parking lot connected with a parochial school.
Pay as you go
Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, parked the first day in a residential neighborhood, then decided to "do the right thing" and began using the 10-hour meters.
She has to walk a few blocks, and once she was late and had to pay a ticket, but that was "no big deal," she said.
Reporters can go to the bank and get a couple rolls of quarters and come early each day, and they'll be fine, she suggested.
"Leave a space for me," she added.
Fox 29 Philadelphia photographer-editor Elaine Fisher has also worked out an accommodation with the parking situation.
She began with the big-city presumption that media could ignore parking meters and did just that when she arrived at 5:30 a.m. for the first day of the trial.
In Philadelphia, a quarter gets you 7.5 minutes, she said, making it impractical to keep a meter fed on a job that demands a lengthy presence.
That day, she got a ticket.
The next day, she pulled up and actually looked at the meter instructions. She discovered that a quarter would get her five hours.
"I felt foolish," she said.
So she paid the quarter. She also went to the municipal building and paid the previous day's ticket, "cheerfully," she said.
She comes with plenty of quarters now.
"I learned my lesson," she said.
Amanda Ottaway of Hollidaysburg, who's watching the trial as a spectator to help launch a career in journalism, put 60 cents in a red meter for six hours Wednesday, then reloaded after lunch.
She was fine with that.
The flip side
What might be a major or minor inconvenience for the media has also created concerns the other way.
Andrew Cline, a delivery driver for a pizza restaurant a few doors from the courthouse, said the influx of cars, satellite trucks and media vans has been a "big hassle."
Repeatedly, court-related vehicles have been parking in front of the restaurant, forcing him to park in a back alley. When that happens, he watches for a space to open, then hastens to bring his car around.
Once when he did that, the space filled up again before he got to it.
Beyond his place of employment, he said court-related vehicles on Tuesday filled all the spots near his home a few blocks away, forcing him to park two or three blocks beyond there.
During the evening, two spaces came open, and he went to fetch his car. But both filled up again before he reached them.
It was 9 p.m. before he could park close to home, which he likes to do so he can keep an eye on his car and the expensive equipment inside.
Holderman told of a media vehicle that parked in front of a downtown business all day, and which the borough ticketed three times in succession.
But the media outlet that sent the vehicle wouldn't blink at paying the petty fine, according to the business owner who complained about the situation, Holderman said.
The first ticket each day is $5, the second $8 and the third $14, according to Police Chief Shawn Weaver. That's a total of $27.
That owner said the borough ought to jack up the parking fines to deterrent levels, Holderman said.
Still, the complaints have been minimal, both ways, according to Holderman.
Without the mega-trial, the borough has parking difficulties, he said, noting that Council has discussed the possibility of a parking garage.
With the Sandusky trial, parking hasn't been as bad as the annual summer cruise, according to Hope Boylston, a borough resident who was taking pictures of the media carnival in front of the courthouse to send to her out-of-town kids.
She lives three blocks away from the courthouse and said she hasn't noticed any trial-related cars nearby.
A handful of changes
The borough has made traffic accommodations, though not as extensive as those for the one-day preliminary hearing in December, when the borough closed streets near the courthouse, Holderman said.
That would have been too expensive to repeat for the long trial and too damaging for local businesses, he said
There have been no street closings, just the elimination of a turning lane in front of the courthouse, where the borough is allowing satellite trucks to park, according to Holderman.
But there are special parking arrangements. The borough is charging $100 a week for each satellite truck, based on the average $100 a week collected in meters around the courthouse, Weaver said.
That price is good even when the trucks occupy more than one slot.
County employees who normally park in a lot behind the courthouse are getting special passes to park for free in metered areas, Weaver said.
Members of the prosecution team are parking for free in spaces near the courthouse where the borough has covered meters with orange bags, Weaver said.
And the jurors are coming in by bus.
Weaver estimated that the cost of dealing with the hubbub throughout what is expected to be a three-week trial should total about $25,000 for the borough and other agencies that are helping - including State College Borough, the state police and the Centre County Tactical Response Team.
Some of the extra revenue will go toward overtime costs and planning, according to Weaver. But the revenue from the tickets isn't coming close to covering it, he said.
Does the borough resent the intrusion?
"It's the county seat," Holderman said. "You reap the advantages - and the disadvantages."