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Ivins presents new paid parking proposal for Saratoga Springs

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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— Public officials want to keep the discussion about paid parking alive.

Commissioner of Finance Ken Ivins Jr. thinks charging for parking downtown could pull the city out of its financial woes.

He has put out a new proposal on paid parking to get people talking and get their opinions. It is available on the city’s Web site at www.saratoga-springs.org.

Ivins is charged with developing a revised 2009 budget after the state pulled back $1.8 million in gaming revenue the city had expected to get this year.

He estimates that city property owners will face a 20 percent tax increase next year if the city doesn’t cut spending this year because of the lack of video lottery terminal money and because the city used some one-time windfalls to balance its budget this year.

If the city builds a police station and parking garage without charging for parking, property owners could face a 40 percent tax increase next year, Ivins said.

“We have to have some other revenue source, in my opinion,” Ivins said.

But downtown merchants have voiced their opposition to paid parking, saying it will drive shoppers to Wilton and discourage further business growth.

The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce board has been particularly vocal against paid parking, noting that in the early 1970s the chamber replaced parking meters with flowers and trees to rejuvenate downtown.

Some proposals before the city have called for paid parking only in certain areas, like new parking garages, to soften the blow to motorists and merchants.

But the way Ivins sees it, paid parking has to be instituted everywhere in order for the city to make any money.

“All you’re going to do is drive around, drive around, until you find something free,” Ivins said.

He proposes charging a dollar an hour for short-term parking spaces and 50 cents an hour for long-term spaces.

Ivins wants to reduce the maximum parking time on Broadway from two hours to one hour. Streets that feed into Broadway would require turnover every hour and a half instead of two hours.

He also proposes the following time restrictions in parking lots and garages:

All-day parking in the proposed High Rock garage.

Two-hour parking on the lower level of the proposed Woodlawn Avenue garage and three-hour parking on the upper deck.

Four-hour parking on the lower level of the current Church Street parking garage and all-day parking on the top deck.

Three-hour parking in the Spring Street garage.

Four-hour parking in the Spring Street lot.

He would like parking to be enforced from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. Saturday, with free parking on Sunday.

People who buy a yearly parking pass would be able to park in short-term areas for an hour longer than the posted time and could park in long-term lots all day. Ivins suggested that the passes cost $240 for residents and $300 for nonresidents.

He plans to announce a series of budget workshops at the next City Council meeting on Monday and take input from the public about paid parking then.

“I want comments from folks,” he said. “I want it to be the community’s plan.”

He is likely to get a response from Ron Kim, commissioner of public safety, because Kim wants to start talking to one of the bidders about getting a contract together for the combined police station and parking garage.

“I’m not sure why we’re waiting,” Kim said. “It’s almost like navel gazing.”

He said the city could start making money this year on paid parking while also working on building plans for the station.

Andrew Brindisi, president of the Downtown Business Association, said he is open to hearing Ivins’ proposal and talking about the issue, even though a sign in the window of Brindisi’s Restaurant on Broadway urges people to oppose paid parking.

“He’s been very positive for downtown, and I want to keep an open mind,” Brindisi said of Ivins.

“I think there’s a lot of creativity in this community, and I think we can resolve this issue if everybody comes together,” Brindisi said, noting that he can’t speak for the DBA.

City officials would like to build new parking garages on city-owned lots on High Rock Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue.

They have gotten bids from three developers to build parking garages as part of a plan to construct a new police station.

High Rock Partners, Bonacio Construction/BBL Construction and Yorkshire Properties have bid on the project, and the first two developers proposed using paid parking to pay for the police station.

It’s hard to say how much the city could earn from paid parking, Ivins said: “We don’t really know until it starts happening.”

Ivins wants to start charging for parking immediately, build the parking garages and save up to build a police station in a few years.

But at least two commissioners disagree with that approach.

John Franck, commissioner of accounts, said it doesn’t make sense to build the new parking garages without doing a police station.

“Based on economies of scale, that doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “If you’re going to do it, you might as well build a police station and do everything at once.”

Kim said the City Council appears to be incapable of setting aside money for the future.

“If the last couple budgets are any lesson, we don’t sock money away,” he said.

Building prices are likely to be higher in two years than they are now during the economic recession, Kim added.

Franck has recused himself from voting on the police station development plan because one of the bidders, Bonacio Construction, is involved in an assessment lawsuit with mansion owner John Breyo.

Breyo is suing the city and Franck over the $20 million assessment on his 60,000-square-foot home, and Bonacio Construction opposes turning over records about how much it charged Breyo to build the home.

 
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