The saga over paid parking downtown has taken another turn. This one could lead to taxpayers buoying the city’s parking department or the end of regulated parking altogether.
The City Commission voted this week to reverse its earlier decision to create a series of educational forums to ensure the public was aware of the city’s parking issues. The campaign would have cost $24,000.
A review of the city’s changing parking policy during the past four months:
• Aug. 17 — Commissioners approve parking meters around existing garages but are not clear on which garages.
• Sept. 8 — The August approval is rescinded, because city staff was confused with the commission’s direction and created a parking plan around all existing garages, which commissioners did not like. Mayor Dick Clapp proposes a six-month series of public forums to educate the public and get its input. That motion passes unanimously.
• Dec. 7 — After Susan Dodd, assistant to the city manager, presented her plan for the forums, the commission voted to cancel them, saying now was not the time.
Commissioner Terry Turner equated placing parking meters downtown in this economy to another tax and said the public already knows what the issues are with paid parking.
“I don’t believe the voters need us to spend $24,000 to tell them,” he said.
The city hosted eight monthly, paid-parking meetings during the past year that were open to the public, but the average attendance at each meeting was only 13, according to Dodd.
Parking-meter revenue was going to help balance the parking department’s budget. The department is projected to run through its $1 million reserve fund by the end of 2010.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta provided two options to keep the department afloat if there are no meters — support it with more taxpayer dollars or do away with regulated parking.
“If we don’t want regulated parking, we can disband the parking department overnight,” he said.
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