Mayor Steve Noble said Tuesday, Feb. 14 that plans to install payment kiosks in nine city lots that currently offer free parking will be delayed by at least a month after the Common Council failed, for a second straight month, to approve a bond ordinance to pay for the new equipment.
Noble added that the delay, and a new proposal to offer low-cost annual parking permits, means the city will probably not meet a projected goal of $175,000 in new revenue from the kiosks.
“We’re not going to spend that money unless the revenue comes in,” said Noble. “And I expect that the revenue is not going to meet our projections.”
Paid parking in city lots has become a hot-button issue since October when Noble unveiled the plan in his proposed 2017 budget. Currently the lots are free and provide a convenient source of long-term parking for residents without off-street parking and employees of area businesses. Noble’s original proposal called for installing payment kiosks in the lots and charging 75 cents per hour for parking. Users could also purchase monthly parking passes for $40 a month or annual passes for $400.
Last month, facing stiff opposition from business owners in the Uptown business sistrict, Noble offered a compromise to allow frequent users to purchase, for 2017 only, an annual pass for the lots for just $10.
Noble has said the rate hikes and kiosks were a way to shift the burden of the cost of maintaining the parking lots from city taxpayers as a whole, some of whom rarely if ever use city-owned parking, to those who actually use the lots and meters. About $100,000 of the $175,000 in projected new revenue from the kiosks was slated to go into maintenance and upgrades to the nine city-owned lots.
Plans call for the kiosks to be installed by April 1. But so far, the council has not approved the $125,000 bond to pay for the new equipment. In January, with paid-parking supporter Alderman Doug Koop (D-Ward 2) absent, the council failed to achieve the six-vote supermajority needed to move ahead with the bond.
Earlier this month, the council appeared set to approve the bond when Alderwoman Maryann Mills (D-Ward 7) invoked a rule that forbids a revote on previously discussed items at the same or the next council meeting. Council President James Noble said that the vote could have gone forward with a motion from one of the five Aldermen who voted in the majority at the previous meeting. But, James Noble said, he opted to delay the vote out to “err on the side of caution.”
The bond ordinance is expected to come up again at the March meeting of the Common Council. But Mayor Noble said that, even if the council approves the bond, installation of the kiosks will be delayed until at least May and possibly longer.
Meter rates, fines increase April 1
Other aspects of Noble’s parking plan, including raising the price of on-street metered parking from 50 cents to $1 per hour and raising fines for an expired meter from $20 to $25 will go into effect on April 1. Noble said that he also expects a new smartphone app which allows users to replenish parking meters remotely to be active by then.
While the mayor awaits council approval for the kiosks, he’s moving ahead with a plan to form a six-member “working group” to examine a range of issues in revamping the city’s parking rules and infrastructure. The working group will look at options for snow emergency parking, time limits on street parking and opportunities to expand parking in areas where there isn’t enough.
Noble said the committee would consist of two community members chosen from each of the city’s three business districts. Noble said that he had received 30 applications to work on the volunteer effort and was in the process of choosing members. Noble said the group’s recommendations would help guide an overall approach to reworking a parking system he described as “broken.”
“They’re going to study successful strategies that have been used in other communities and maybe new creative strategies we can come up with here,” said the mayor. “And how to implement those strategies in a way that won’t hurt taxpayers.”