Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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City parking future clearer

by Lisa Seiser

September 08, 2011

City officials appear closer than ever to spending about $935,000 on a new automated parking pay station system that would replace the coin meters throughout the city's downtown business area.

On Tuesday, during the City Council's Committee of the Whole meeting, elected officials listened to updated cost information and specifics about the new system.

For months, city officials have discussed a new parking system that would rid the downtown of the old, coin-operated parking meters and replace them with modern-looking, parking terminals which can accept coins, bills or credit cards.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said Tuesday night he believes increases in revenues because of the new parking stations would pay for the system in about five years.

He said it is typical to receive 28- to 30-percent increases in revenues because those who park are able to pay in multiple ways and often pay for more time than they need.

"We see this as something that will benefit the city and help the city staff when it comes to collection procedures, too," Jordan said about the state-of-the-art system. "This addresses some of those collection concerns because it is safe and secure."

But, officials were only on hand to discuss the matter Tuesday. Jordan is expected to create a chart where each of the pay station kiosks will be located and also will provide a picture of the Luke II stations at a future council meeting. He said if a decision was made soon on the system, installation of some of the kiosks could start this fall and likely be completed in spring.

The city currently has 948 parking meters in operation on streets and in five parking lots. The idea is to replace those meters with 74 pay station kiosks from Digital Payment Technologies. It is expected that 16 of those kiosks will be solar powered.

The total cost of the delivery of the machines and one-time set up is a total of $776,000. There will be an annual cost of $31,080 for reports, alerts and processing by the machines. Additional costs include connectivity ($35,000), electricity ($44,400) and signage and conversion of spaces ($45,000).

Jordan previously estimated a total cost of $999,000, but he has since found other options regarding signage that is less costly. That makes up the difference in the previous estimates.

City officials said $635,000 of the total would come from the city's Tax Incremental Financing District, while $300,000 will come from the city's parking reserve fund.

Jordan, who has worked on this project for some time, said he would recommend the system even if the city would have had to borrow to install it.

In a memo he wrote to the council, he stated the parking reserve fund could be paid back in two years if the council wished that to be the case. The city revenues would remain the same as they have been in that scenario, he wrote. After the second year, the general fund would receive the increase the new system would generate.

This year, the city anticipates $744,710 in parking revenues. The sellers of the systems suggested the city would increase its total parking revenue with the stations because people just use a credit card and often pay for more time than they need.

Alderman Frank Marsala agreed. He said he spoke with people from Fontana, who said the municipality had a 20-percent increase in parking revenues since the installation of the same type of pay stations the city is looking at.

Regardless of what is done with the city's parking, personnel in the meter department isn't expected to change.

Jordan said there currently are two meter people on the streets at one time and that wouldn't change with the installation of the system. He said because of the handheld devices those personnel already have, the job would become more efficient, but the meter readers would still be necessary.

Alderman Tom Hartz suggested the meter department employees become more like "ambassadors" to the city, helping visitors use the system and giving directions around the city if needed.

There will likely be at least one cost savings — the elimination of resident parking stickers to place on vehicles.

The two-hour free parking for residents would likely continue, but a special code would be required to punch in the system to receive the free two hours.

Alderman Terry O'Neill said the system "will make it more complicated for citizens" to park.

Aldermen also remained unsure of the connectivity options, which include a one-time cost for a city WiFi system. There also are other options, such as cell service installed in each of the kiosks. That would include an additional monthly service per machine, compared to the one-time installation for city WiFi.

"I get a little nervous when the city gets into the WiFi service," Hartz said.

That is an issue that will continue to be discussed. It is unknown when a vote will be taken on the new system.