Tuesday, December 14, 2010
EDC Votes To Recommend Melilli Parking Garage Planning
At the end of a long discussion the committee voted to recommend that the Common Council resurrect a resolution, tabled at the last Council meeting, to fund a study and plans to locate the plaza on the Melilli site.
At stake are millions of dollars in federal funds, originally earmarked for the garage and for local transit plans, some of which, despite Congressional protection, have already evaporated.
Bill Warner, town planner, reflected on three alternatives, the two which were on the table, and a third which takes into account the downturn in the economy, and the unlikelihood that voters would approve a new lot in referendum. That new plan would see the creation of no new parking garage. Warner handed out notes from a morning brainstorming session in his department which argued that the need for parking was being met currently at the Melilli lot, especially since many city workers had been moved to other parking areas. He also noted that a lot at the current arcade site made more sense because there is potential for future development at the "Cartunes lot," and Metro Square.
Parking director Tom Hartley argued strongly that the real demand for parking was at the Melilli location, and that a plan which called for a new, smaller garage on that site, coupled with five years of maintenance at the arcade was the best plan.
"One of the things most important to the Council was to have parking that was self-sustainable," Hartley said.
According to his plan, a three-level, 350-space lot would be built on the Melilli site, and not a 500-space lot on the arcade site. His figures showed that the total cost of the project would be $11,504,115 with federal earmark dollars used for nearly $9 million of the cost. The city would have to bond and contribute $2.5 million, but Hartley argued that the revenue from parking could be use to pay back the bond.
The alternative, according to Hartley, is a new arcade garage at nearly $16 million with the city having to bond $7 million. He claims the larger garage on the arcade site would never be able to pay for itself.
Hartley's view is that federal dollars would pay for most of the Mellili garage, leaving a smaller payback for the city.
"We'd have a garage that was funded at 80%, and the city would have to bond 20%," Hartley said. "That's sustainable. There's no way we could ever raise the revenue to make the arcade garage pay for itself."
Committee member David Bauer balked at the new statistics and the cost, indicating that just a few years ago the city was sure the answer was a new arcade garage.
"We managed to take that great public certainty and we've walked 180 degrees in the other direction," Bauer said. "I'm all for taking advantage of the earmarked dollars, but I want to make a good decision. I don't want to face the taxpayer and say we decided to spend $2 million of your money recklessly."
"The problem is the longer we put off the decision," Daley said. "The greater jeopardy we're in for losing that money."
The committee, convinced by Hartley that a new Melilli garage was the answer, and that arcade parking could eventually be handled by a private developer, voted to send the proposal onto the Common Council for debate and vote at the January meeting.