Thursday, January 29, 2009

Parking Department Proposal Moves Forward

The Finance and Government Operations Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to send a plan to create an autonomous Parking Department to the Common Council for a vote.

Downtown merchants urged the commission to follow the recommendation of the parking study group and create a department which would focus exclusively on parking issues in town. Currently, parking matters are handled by the Police Department.

Because a parking department would actually raise revenue, estimated at $700,000 annually in it's first year, the creation of a department would require an additional $122,000 of that money earmarked for salaries, office space and other expenses, added to the current $230,000 which is currently budgeted.

Merchants and downtown property owners like Marc Levine, Peter Harding and Welles Guilmartin claimed that the new department could help solve the ongoing downtown parking problem, and increase revenue from lots like the one at Mellili Plaza where 70 cars a day are estimated to avoid the parking fee by simply waiting until the parking attendent is off duty.

The Common Council will consider the recommendation at its next meeting.

In other business, the commission tabled a request by the Police Department for upgraded Mobile Data Terminals until it becomes clear how much the state will contribute in the coming year in Local Capital Improvement (LoCIP) funds.

They also turned down a request from the Water and Sewer Department to attend a conference based on a pledge to prohibit conference attendance except in cases where accreditation is at risk.

The Commission approved confined space training for the Parks and Recreation Department, and they accepted a "Safer" grant for $494,727 which the Fire Department received from the Federal government to increase staffing levels for specially trained personnel.

The Commission also decided on a workshop session for a new resolution on the use of city vehicles by municipal employees. The new resolution would explicitly restrict the use of vehicles to on-call purposes and prohibit personal use by employees.

The Commission also approved an increase in budget for snow removal for 2009 due to the increase in storms, particularly storms on weekends, causing overtime costs.


Jen Alexander said...

I'm glad that the Finance & Gov committee agreed to send the new Parking Department plan forward to the Common Council for a vote! As the chair of the Downtown Business District, I know that parking problems are holding back downtown property values -- and as Bill Warner (director of planning, etc.) said at the meeting last night, the collective value of Main Street commercial real estate is the biggest contributor of property taxes in town! So it really matters if we don't do the best we can to help Main Street grow.

After two years of study, we are convinced these changes will be a net gain for the city -- and the temporary hit of $122,000 to the general fund will be off-set by letting the parking department pay for parking costs, like plowing, maintenance, signage, which are currently buried in other departments. And on the upside, it can help the grand list grow in the future by making Main Street a better place to do business.

Anonymous said...

After all my years living in Middletown I have never understood why most of the retail stores on Main Street do not stay open later or are not open at all on Sunday-
In Northhampton Ma, another New England college town, for example retail stores stay open later and are open for more hours on the weekend and draw in the night and dining crowd-

It is discouraging that many retail stores in our downtown don't have hours that working class people - say the 9-5er's can be served by- also during such events as the Motorcycle Mania most stored are closed by 7 even though the event goes much later-