BANGOR, Maine — Having mended a strained relationship, the City Council on Monday unanimously approved a pair of five-year contracts with a Tennessee firm to continue overseeing parking in downtown Bangor and at the airport.
Republic Parking runs the city’s parking garage and oversees parking in Abbot Square, on the Columbia Street deck and in downtown permit lots, as well as at Bangor International Airport. The city’s relationship with the Chattanooga-based parking management firm dates back 16 years. The city handles on-street parking on its own, which is enforced by the Bangor Police Department.
In July, the future of the long Republic Parking partnership suddenly looked uncertain when the council rejected a pair of proposals that would have extended Republic’s contracts to run parking operations in Bangor’s downtown and at the airport.
At the time, several councilors expressed discontent with Republic Parking management and responsiveness toward customer and council concerns. They said Republic officials hadn’t returned earlier messages in which they hoped to address concerns brought to them by Bangor residents.
The sudden pushback left Parke Clemens, Republic Parking manager, “devastated and surprised,” he said at the time.
When Republic Parking’s contracts with the city expired in September, the city put out a request for proposals to handle parking operations for the city. The city received six responses, which it whittled down to three finalists — Republic Parking, Standard Parking of Chicago and LAZ Parking of Hartford, Conn.
City Councilor Jamie Gallant, one of the councilors who had complained about Republic Parking’s responsiveness, served on the committee that reviewed the parking proposals.
Standard Parking and Republic Parking each offered to provide their services for roughly the same amount of money, according to Gallant. However, Standard Parking’s rates would have increased each year and the company would have had two separate managers for airport and downtown services. Gallant said the committee believed having two managers would hinder effective communication with the city.
LAZ, which runs parking services for hospitals, universities and airports across the country, was eliminated because its estimated cost was nearly twice that of the other two companies.
In the end, the committee recommended the council go with Republic again. Republic will handle the downtown lots and garage for $34,200 a year and the airport parking for $36,000 annually for the first three years of the contracts. The amounts will be subject to renegotiation over the final two years of the contracts.
Republic’s willingness to work with the city to resolve service concerns is what really convinced the city, according to Gallant.
As part of its effort, Republic Parking agreed to send someone from its Tennessee headquarters to work with employees on customer service training on an annual basis. The company also is investing $90,000 to install LED lighting in the parking garage to improve safety and energy efficiency, according to Clemens.
Republic also will provide the city with new software and equipment, which Bangor police’s parking division can use to replace its antiquated system for enforcing on-street parking.
“It really brings them into the 21st century,” and will make monitoring, ticketing and fine payments an easier process, according to Clemens.
Clemens also said he would be attending monthly committee meetings to address in person any questions or concerns councilors or the public might have.
“That’s one of the major things that’s going to change, I’m going to be a lot more visible,” Clemens said Tuesday.
Gallant called the near-break in the relationship between Republic and the city a “minor situation” that boiled over because of a lack of communication.
“We need fast results, we need positive customer service, and we need a company to adequately manage our parking,” Gallant said, adding that he’s confident Republic Parking will be able to provide all these things after its efforts to ease concerns of the council.