Mayor’s parking plan stalls as key questions go unanswered at council meeting

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster had hoped to push through his parking meter installation plan at the February 22 council meeting, but an unusually vocal group of residents pummeled the council and mayor with questions regarding operating costs of the parking plan. As a result the plan was voted down, 4-1, with councilwoman Grandinetti being the lone yes vote.

Both the [Mayors Irene] Elia and [Vince] Anello administrations installed parking meters in the downtown and both of those plans ultimately, for different reasons, failed. Will parking meters operate more successfully under the Dyster administration than they did under the Elia and Anello administrations? Until the rowdy February 22 council meeting, the mayor had planned to have the first wave of meters installed downtown by Memorial Day. Unless Dyster can secure council approval for his parking plan at the next council meeting his Memorial Day installation target date is sure to get pushed back if not cancelled.

Mayor Dyster, during his Feb. 17th appearance on the WJJL Tom Darro radio show, said the initial downtown “parking pay station” installation will “cost $350,000” not the rumored “$650,000.” The bottom line eventual total installation cost was left unsaid. Also left unaddressed by the mayor was the eventual city-wide parking meter coverage. His Honor also failed to inform the radio listeners as to how the parking plan was going to be administered, staffed and budgeted. So, plenty of questions remain unanswered. Questions that we first posed more than a year ago.

Parking plan questions:

The $100,000+ consultant driven parking plan included “parking zones” and “implementation phases.” That meant parking meters will systematically spread throughout the city. Are those “zones” and “phases” now going to play out as contained in the plan?

One popular Pine Avenue restaurant informed city hall last year that they would move their business to the Town of Niagara if meters come to Pine Avenue. Will the Dyster-Touma parking plan eventually locate meters along Pine Avenue and other city streets?

What equipment, in total, is needed to implement the parking plan?: city hall office space, computers, office equipment, phones, vehicles etc.

What additional employees, salaries, overtime, pay raises and stipends are at play here? In 2013 the mayor unilaterally handed the city controller an annual $10,000 stipend to administer the casino revenue account. That stipend was awarded in spite of the fact that from 2003 until 2013 the administration of the casino account was part of the controller’s routine duties.

The parking plan called for the city to sign over/sell parking rights to a private company. The Reporter detailed how a similar parking privatization plan in Chicago ended in scandal and financial loss for the Windy City. Does the Dyster parking plan and meter installation initiative sell the parking rights to a private entity?

Finally, the elephant in the room. It’s been a very poorly kept secret that the monitoring of parking receipts at the city parking ramp and surface lots has been – how should we put this – rather sketchy as to the accuracy of its bottom line. We question why the city has steadfastly refused to install an automated system at the ramp and surface lots to better monitor the situation.

The Reporter predicts the parking plan will be heavy in administrative and employee costs. When all is said it won’t turn a profit. Not after salaries are bumped up and  stipends are handed out and insiders get jobs. Forgive us for being negative but the parking plan was designed by the administration that gave you a $50 million courthouse, $44 million train station, $2.4 million trash totes, $8 million deficit, $64 million debt and $100 million in casino revenue expenditures.

 

chicago-parking-meter-repair

The price of public parking in downtown Chicago is reportedly the most expensive in America.

A December 2008 deal by former Mayor Richard Daley gave control of the city’s meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC, a consortium of investors led by Morgan Stanley, for 75 years, in exchange for $1.157 billion.  The money was spent in record time by the city and now for the next 67 years the city will collect nothing for its public parking while the private company continues to raise rates.


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