By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The committee examining downtown parking needs more time on the meter.
Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter told City Council Monday evening that the parking committee would like more time to study the issue of how parking gets paid for downtown.
The committee originally had till the end of October, but asked for an extension till the Nov. 5 council meeting. The request was granted.
“We’re very thankful of the participation of business owners and property owners,” Council President Mike Aspacher said.
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.
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, Fawcett said.
“They are examining all options,” Fawcett said.
The committee was initially given two months to come up with a solution for maintaining downtown parking. The cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found.
Two proposals being considered are:
- Doubling meter costs to 50 cents an hour to pay for parking lot maintenance.
- Pulling out all parking meters and kiosks, and assessing downtown property and business owners for parking costs.
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. So the options suggested in August included increasing the parking revenue, sharing the costs of maintaining the parking lots, or getting rid of some of the expenses.
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 attending the last council meeting 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, Tretter said. 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.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
- Nathan Eberly urged City Council to keep the name of Veterans Memorial Building for the new structure planned in City Park. At the same time, the city should explore donations for naming rights, and possibly consider crediting contributions by naming individual rooms for donors.
- Council accepted fee increases recommended by the parks and recreation board.
- Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Mary Hinkelman as the new executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce.
- Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said the annual wine and cheese event raised more than $20,000, with the final numbers not in yet.
- Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said hydrant flushing and maintenance is underway in the city. Information on where the testing it taking place can be found on the city’s website.