Paid parking proposals were struck down Tuesday, leaving a $1.3 million hole in this year’s budget while giving downtown workers, residents and business owners a reason to sigh with relief.
The 12-member advisory committee charged with reviewing proposals from four companies panned all of them at a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Nine of the members voted to not recommend any of the proposals to the City Council.
“All of the applications are totally flawed. They don’t make sense,” said Harvey Fox, owner of N. Fox Jewelers and a member of the Downtown Business Association and downtown Special Assessment District.
The bidders were Republic Parking Systems of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Propark America of Hartford, Conn.; SP Plus of New York City; and LAZ Parking of New York City.
Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins said he wasn’t completely surprised with the outcome of the meeting.
“I knew there was a possibility. I was hoping to get it narrowed down,” he said.
The City Council will discuss the situation at 6 p.m. Tuesday before the next council meeting. Ivins said he would not recommend a proposal to the council.
“The council can still decide to go ahead with paid parking,” he said.
But it appears from past meetings that most council members have serious reservations about paid parking.
The public has a chance to weigh in at a special meeting March 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Canfield Casino. But it’s unclear now, after the proposals were panned, what the topic will be.
Ivins said council members are free to come up with their own proposals for generating revenue or cutting expenses. Raising property taxes this year is off the table.
He expects a council decision at the March 16 meeting.
Voting against all the proposals and cutting the meeting short were committee members Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton; Charles Wait, president of Adirondack Trust Co.; Joseph Dalton, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce; Harvey Fox, owner of N. Fox Jewelers; Pat Kane, a resident who has served on volunteer city boards; Mark Baker, president of the City Center; Assistant Police Chief Michael Biss; Tim Mabee, chairman of the downtown special assessment district; and Kathy Denkenberger of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Only three people voted to keep talking about the proposals: Ivins and his two appointees, his deputy, Kate Jarosh, and resident Brian Reilly.
Ivins had asked the committee to study the proposals and rank them, discussing their top two picks around the table. The first member was still discussing his picks when Fox made a motion to turn them all down.
Wait then blasted paid parking as a concept as well as the request-for-proposals process.
“We are here recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression,” he said. “The last thing we need to do is tax [residents, businesses and visitors], and that’s what you’re doing with this proposal.”
He and other members cited flaws in the process, including the applicants’ reliance on income from the parking deck at Woodlawn Avenue and Church Street.
City officials said they can legally charge for use of the parking deck off Church Street that was built with the county’s help, but money raised from that facility has to fund operation and maintenance of the garage, not be poured back into the general fund.
Wait also noted that the four applicants cited ticket income as extra revenue when the city already budgets for it.
Reilly cited the “fuzzy math” of some of the applications, and Biss said the numbers didn’t add up to enough revenue for the city.
“I think we’re opening up a lot more questions on this,” said the assistant police chief.
An official outside the committee said the whole process was set up the wrong way, as the city is trying to create a proposal to fill a budget hole instead of planning ahead.
“I think things need to happen in the opposite way,” said Supervisor Joanne Yepsen. “You can’t put money into a budget when you don’t have a plan.”