SARATOGA SPRINGS - Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins is banking on paid parking to deliver some much-needed revenue to the city coffers this year.
But with a May 1 deadline for implementation fast approaching, there are signs that the city could run into obstacles before its time expires.
When Commissioner Ivins crafted the city’s 2010 budget, it included about $1.35 million in revenue that was anticipated to come from a paid-parking program that the city hoped to implement by May 1.
Four parking management companies that responded to the city’s request for proposals remain in the running to install meters; however, it is not clear whether there is the required majority support on the city council to move forward with the proposed project.
Ivins, whose office issued the RFP, said he will be bringing the top two proposals as recommended by an advisory committee to the city council for a workshop on March 2.
Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Mayor Scott Johnson — two of the five members of the city council — already voted against relying on paid parking to balance the budget when the topic was brought to the table in November. There is no indication they have changed their stance since.
“Paid parking should be used to maintain parking facilities. This was a stop-gap measure to try and balance the budget instead of decreasing expenses,” Commissioner Franck said last week. “I’m not against paid parking (per se), but I’m against paid parking to balance the budget.”
Mayor Johnson said he needed to review the present proposals before indicating whether he would vote to accept paid parking or not, although he did re-iterate his concerns about including paid parking as part of the 2010 budget.
“To me, personally, that’s not being realistic and most likely not going to solve our present financial crisis,” Johnson said.
The city eliminated dozens of positions and raised taxes 7 percent to balance this year’s budget. Ivins said despite the disapproval of some council members, he pushed to include $1.35 million in parking revenue because the alternative to that plan was cutting even more city jobs. He said he expected the issue might come up again at the March 2 meeting.
“I have asked my fellow council members that if they’re not comfortable with a paid-parking system to come to the meeting with some proposals of revenue sources or cuts at that point,” Ivins said.
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco and newly elected Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth were both non-committal on how they would vote on a paid-parking program. Each said they are “keeping an open mind” at this point.
With payroll accounting for about $30 million of the city’s $36 million budget — and the public safety and public works departments accounting for a majority of that employee payroll — the two commissioners’ departments stand to lose the most if job cuts are to be made.
The proposition of installing a paid-parking measure on city-owned lots and on some streets off of Broadway would represent the first metered system in the Spa City since the nickel-an-hour machines were removed in the 1970s. They would also represent a sleeker, more modernized version than their predecessors of a generation earlier with the ability to accept payment by cash, credit card or phone.
Four companies submitted proposals to the city last week. They are LAZ of New York City; ProPark America of Stamford, Conn.; Republic Parking System of Chattanooga, Tenn.; and the Standard Parking Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio.
The proposals gave a varying account of the annual revenue that the meters would deliver, and ranged from $700,000 to more than $2 million per year.
The proposals recommended that short-term parkers, such as city visitors or shoppers, would pay $1.50 per hour and suggested a cost range of $50 to $65 per month for long-term parking permits.
The meters would cover nearly 1,000 parking spaces at a handful of city-owned surface lots and parking decks. An “Addendum B” proposal would include on-street metered parking spaces, located up to three blocks both east and west of Broadway.
The city’s proposal did not identify the number of on-street spots that would be included, leaving the companies to designate the number of spaces on their own, which they counted as between 300 to 450 spots.
Company: Plan vague
Allpro Parking of Buffalo, a company that opted not to submit a proposal, said the city’s request lacked the necessary detailed information required for the company to submit a proposal at this time.
“I don’t think we had the level of comfort we would like. It was a little vague,” said Craig Barber, senior vice president of Allpro Parking, whose company manages six parking facilities in upstate New York cities and one in
Barber said he thought it was “unusual” that the city did not hold a pre-bid conference to explain the RFP and give companies the opportunity to ask questions.
“I think that’s essential for someone to make a significant investment into the paid-parking program,” he said.
“Our sense was this will get a good chewing over and at some point reconsidered and maybe re-offered in a different format.”
Barber said the company is interested in being considered in the future when there is more demonstrated support for the program and the guidelines are better defined.
Paid parking opposed in 2008
A different paid-parking scenario had been considered by the city two years ago.
In 2008, proposals were received from three developers for a parking plan that included the city giving developers the land rights to the High Rock and Collamer lots in exchange for the construction of a new public safety facility, parking garage and a mix of residential and commercial buildings that would include a cineplex complex.
Discussions about the proposal fell apart, however, after merchants complained against metering Broadway, where their stores are located.
In 2009, the city council remained deadlocked over a resolution that would have chosen a developer for that paid parking proposal.
In Glens Falls, meanwhile, Mayor John “Jack” Diamond caused an uproar in late 2008 when he suggested installing parking meters or some other system of paid parking throughout downtown. The city has yet to do so.
In December, 2009, Diamond said he still thought paid parking is inevitable, but not in the immediate future in Glens Falls. Diamond did not return phone calls seeking comment for this report.