By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
As part of the continuing debate over how to pay for downtown parking, a more “user-friendly” kiosk will be demonstrated for downtown and city officials next week.
Mayor Dick Edwards expressed some reservations about the new kiosk at Monday’s City Council meeting, but said he is looking forward to seeing a model that is easier for motorists to use.
A committee of downtown property owners and business owners has been meeting to study the options of how to pay for parking. The committee is charged with looking at whether the city should continue to charge for parking, or if the property and business owners want to work on a shared cost approach.
The cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found.
The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses.
The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure.
Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner would pay $220 a year for 20 years. The lowest amount charged would be $30 a year. The highest – to the owner of multiple properties – would be $2,000 a year.
Those assessments would generate about $20,000 a year.
The concept of the downtown property owners picking up the tab for parking expenses was not supported by the landowners during a meeting earlier this year. However, the business owners have stated they would be willing to share in the expenses if it meant customers wouldn’t have to pay for parking.
The benefits of getting rid of parking meters would be multi-faceted. It would be a marketing opportunity for downtown businesses, it would eliminate the need for meter or kiosk replacements, and it would mean the city would no longer have to pay property taxes on the parking lots since they would not be generating revenue. That alone will be an annual savings of about $35,000.
The parking committee includes the following downtown property and business owners: Dick Newlove; Greg Halamay, owner of Finders Records; Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block Building; Kati Thompson, owner of Eden Fashion Boutique; Ben Waddington, owner of Waddington Jewelers; Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s and Ace Hardware; and Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s.
Also attending the parking meetings, representing the city, are Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, Director of Finance Brian Bushong, Police Chief Tony Hetrick and City Councilman Bruce Jeffers.
In other business affecting the downtown, Public Works Director Brian Craft reported to council that bids for the waterline project for Main and Wooster streets will be opened on Nov. 15. The waterline work will be on the heels of the Columbia Gas line replacement in the downtown, Craft said.
“This is the next phase of getting the downtown put back together,” Craft said.
Following the waterline work, street and sidewalk repairs are planned.
Also at Monday’s meeting, council heard that as the city prepares to start collecting leaves next week, it has wrapped up with grass mowing program for the year.
Planning Director Heather Sayler said the city issued 175 notifications this year for long grass and noxious weeds. The city ended up mowing 23 properties, with four of those being repeats. The owners were then charged by the city.
Craft reported pickup of leaves will begin Nov. 13, starting in Ward 3. The crews will do a last pass through the city in early to mid December.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell explained the need to move quickly on an ordinance allowing him to enter into an agreement with a competitive retail natural gas provider for a fixed price option for municipal gas aggregation customers.
The city started a natural gas aggregation program in 2004 to offer savings for local Columbia Gas customers. Gas pricing in the program is typically updated and fixed every six to 12 months.
The city’s supplier, IGS, recently informed the city that it will need an updated agreement to continue with pricing for the gas aggregation program. City officials have discussed other gas suppliers as possible alternatives to IGS in an effort to lock in a lower fixed price.
Because of the volatility of gas pricing, a decision to identify the gas supplier and lock in a fixed price often occurs on the same day a quote is received, O’Connell said. This doesn’t allow time for the typical legislative process with City Council, he explained.
Council agreed, declared an emergency, and adopted the ordinance
In other business at Monday’s meeting:
- Council appointed Madison Stump to the bicycle safety commission.
- Sayler announced a new member is now needed for the city planning commission and for a zoning subcommittee, now that Mark Hollenbaugh has been appointed to City Council.
- Sayler reported an increase in zoning permits requested for the year, with 352 for this year compared to 332 for this time last year. Permits have been requested for 31 single-family homes this year, compared to 30 last year.
- Mayor Dick Edwards introduced Tony Vetter as the new director of Downtown BG.
- Mary Hinkelman, executive director of the BG Chamber of Commerce, announced volunteers are needed for the annual Holiday Parade on Nov. 17. The parade will start at 9:50 a.m. this year.
- Hinkelman also reported that the third quarter investors grant of $1,000 from the chamber was awarded to the Black Swamp Players.
- Edwards said he was joining the Wood County Commissioners in recognizing Nov. 11 as the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Wood County lost more than 70 service members in the war. He encouraged people to visit the exhibit on the war at the Wood County Historical Center.
- The mayor asked people to attend the annual peace march organized by Not In Our Town Bowling Green, on Nov. 14, starting at noon in the downtown and traveling to the BGSU oval.
- Kristin Otley, parks and recreation director, said the registration for the annual Breakfast with Santa will begin on Nov. 7. The breakfast is for children ages 5 and younger.