Nearly six months after the City Commission did not make a decision on whether to impose paid parking downtown, the City Commission is once again being asked to make a decision.
City staff has begun a series of visits with downtown groups to gauge their opinion on the issue. They are being presented with two choices — institute paid parking or use ad valorem taxes to subsidize the city’s parking operations.
“The cost of doing nothing is even more unpalatable,” said City Manager Bob Bartolotta.
That’s because the city’s parking services is expected to exhaust its $400,000 reserve fund by the end of fiscal year 2010-2011.
Susan Dodd, assistant to the city manager, said parking meters would bring in an estimated $600,000 per year.
The discussions on paid parking have been resurrected, in part, because of the expected December completion of the Palm Avenue parking garage.
The city plans to charge 50 cents per hour to park in the garage but is worried about competition from free on-street parking.
It would cost the city $510,000 to install the meters, with the money coming from the strategic parking fund.
The installation wouldn’t take place until January 2011 at the earliest.
The meters would be placed within a quarter-mile radius of the Palm Avenue parking garage, Whole Foods parking garage and the county garage at Ringling Boulevard and East Avenue.
As for the ad valorem-taxes option, Bartolotta said he did not know whether money could be shifted from other departments and funds or if taxes would have to be raised to support the parking department.
The Downtown Improvement District board voted 3-2 May 4 to support the taxpayer-subsidization option.
The Downtown Sarasota Alliance scheduled a special meeting for March 12, when it will make its recommendation.
This latest push for a decision on paid parking follows nine months of twists and turns.
Aug. 17: Commissioners approved parking meters around existing garages, but were not clear on which garages.
Sept. 8: The August approval was rescinded, because city staff was confused about the commission’s direction and created a parking plan around all existing garages, which commissioners did not like.
Commissioner Dick Clapp proposed a six-month series of public forums to educate the public and get its input. That motion passed unanimously.
Dec. 7: Dodd presented her plan for the forums, but the commission voted to cancel them, saying the time was not right.
Commissioners will be asked to choose between the parking options May 17.
Paid Parking Costs
Palm Avenue garage 50 cents/hour
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