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.