BANGOR, Maine — City councilors voted Wednesday to move one step forward with a proposal to turn over downtown parking management and enforcement to a private company, but support could be wavering.
Councilors were presented with a five-year projection of the costs associated with letting Republic Parking of Chattanooga, Tenn., take over downtown parking duties from the city’s Police Department.
The cost savings would be about $17,203 in the first year, but that would decrease to only $6,203 in the fifth year. The reason for the increase is because Republic Parking has proposed to increase its fee by $2,500 each year.
That budget item did not sit well with some councilors.
“Every [expense] is flat except for the management fee. I have a hard time with that,” Councilor Nelson Durgin said.
Parke Clemons, manager of Republic Parking in Bangor, said the fee in the first year is low because the company wants to provide the city with the service. Republic has been managing the city’s municipal parking garages and lots for nearly 15 years.
Councilor Charles Longo said that for him the biggest drawback of Republic’s proposal is what will happen to the four part-time city employees whose job it is to monitor downtown parking.
Councilor David Nealley agreed.
“There is an intrinsic and intangible value of having people do this,” he said.
Under the proposal by Republic Parking, the four employees would be replaced by one full-time worker. The rest of the duties would be automated.
As such, the costs for personnel would be reduced from $97,567 to $36,910, but there would be new expenses associated with privatization. There also would be some one-time capital expenses for the city to pay for the ticketing system and the license plate recognition system, but those costs would be amortized over five years and are included in the proposal. Republic also would make some investments on its end.
The reason for the proposed switch is more than just budgetary.
Downtown parking problems long have plagued the city and are likely only to get worse as the downtown continues to attract more visitors. Councilors and city staff have made numerous changes in recent years, but problems persist, particularly among a handful of parking scofflaws who routinely beat the system.
City staff and councilors believe that Republic Parking probably could do the job more efficiently and cut down on the number of parking scofflaws at the same time. Instead of city employees writing paper tickets, Republic would use a vehicle outfitted with cameras and other technology to streamline the parking ticket-writing process.
Earlier this year, councilors agreed to move forward with requesting firm cost projections from Republic. Now that they have those projections, the council must soon make a decision on whether to approve the proposal.