Finding a parking place in downtown Provo is like trying to squeeze another shoe into an Imelda Marcos closet.

Central business district merchants want the closet cleaned to make room for their customers' feet. They say business is suffering because of the lack of parking."We're just driving people away from business in downtown Provo," Tawna Dewsnup, manager of Provo Craft, 295 W. Center St., told members of the Association of Involved Merchants on Wednesday.

City offices have been "under seige" with complaints about the downtown parking problem, said Raylene Ireland, administrative assistant to Mayor Joe Jenkins.

To help combat it, the city plans to hire additional parking enforcement officers, Ireland said. The city will also begin ticketing offenders on Saturdays. City officials are also looking at constructing a parking terrace in Town Square across from the Federal Building. But that's at least 18 months away, Ireland said.

Business owners say the problem is acute and needs attention now. Some suggested the city start towing chronic offenders. The City Council has made it a policy not to tow, but Ireland said the city administration would look into that option.

"The main problem I have to deal with is Provo city police parking around Provo Craft," Dewsnup said. Police Department employees, she said, are leaving their personal cars in two-hour parking slots all day. She said it keeps potential customers away.

Ireland promised to handle the matter.

The city will "target the area with a cadet (parking enforcement officer) and have them ticket intensely," Ireland said. The same thing might be done in other problem areas.

But even the stepped up enforcement might just be a Band-Aid solution.

Drivers have found all kinds of creative ways to beat the system.Employees of downtown businesses move their vehicles every two hours to avoid tickets. For some, a squirt bottle has become an item to keep handy. It can be used to wash parking enforcement chalk marks from tires. Other people simply let the tickets pile up, pay them and call it the cost for parking downtown.

"We struggle with that attitude problem all the time. Everyone wants access," Ireland said.

Linda Walton, AIM executive director, is sending letters to downtown business owners requesting they ask their employees to park outside the central business district.

Utah County is doing a usage survey of its 250 employees who park in the 700-stall structure adjacent to the Provo Regional Center. The other 450 spaces are occupied by state employees.

"We think we can come up with 50 to 70 parking spaces we can lease out," County Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck said.

Beck said the county is also exploring a possible deal with UTA to provide bus passes for employees.

Also, NuSkin's move to its new building and accompanying parking structure could ease some of the clogging. The move is scheduled for October. The company currently has offices throughout the city center. It leases a lot next to the Fourth Circuit Judicial Center and shuttles its employees to their offices.

Ireland said the city is meeting with NuSkin representatives this week to discuss the downtown parking issue.