By DREW HOWARD
During Rochester City Council’s May 14 meeting, Mayor Rob Ray addressed public backlash surrounding the council’s discussion to possibly charge for downtown parking on Sundays, among other parking amendments.
Council first discussed the idea of charging for Sunday parking at their April 9 meeting, where council members Dean Bevacqua and Ben Giovanelli argued that the added revenue would help create a more sustainable parking system. Since the April 9 meeting, Ray said he’s spoken with many residents who had a misconception about the city’s motivation to charge for parking on Sundays, which he argued was “construed” by media tidbits.
“I got a lot of feedback from people on charging on Sundays,” Ray said. “In looking for the revenue for the parking fund, it is not a revenue-generating enterprise for the city. It’s its own fund. Revenue generated at the meter stays in the parking fund to pay for the cost of our parking system, plus just a little bit to keep up on maintenance.”
He continued: “It doesn’t go to the city’s general fund. It doesn’t pay for new widgets, it doesn’t go to salaries… so when we as a legislative staff are trying to figure out how to make this work, it’s not to raise more money for the city. It’s just to make the system whole. So however you want to slice it, it comes down to breaking even.”
In the city council’s original discussion on Sunday parking, members were told the added revenue would amount to $100,000 annually, or $2,000 every Sunday. This estimate has since decreased “drastically” to $52,000, Ray said.
If the council decides against charging on the Sundays, Ray argued they would still need to implement some other sort of amendment to create a more sustainable parking system.
“If we kept no-pay Sundays, what would the incremental cost of parking need to be to balance it?” Ray asked. “To break even, it isn’t another dollar an hour, so it’s got to be something else.”
“If we don’t charge on Sundays, that’s fine, but we need to make up for it somewhere else, because this is a break-even exercise.”
Mayor Ray, Mayor Pro-Tem Kim Russell and Council Member Ann Peterson shut down several other proposed parking amendments at the May 14 meeting, including one that would decrease the time for free parking in the downtown parking structures from one hour to 30 minutes.
“We said we were going to give them two free hours, and now we’ve put it down to one free hour,” Russell said. “If you’re there an hour and one minute, you pay… it’s an interesting calculation. I’m just saying I don’t want to change that, I think we need to go at least one hour free.”
Peterson agreed with Russell. “Changing from an hour to 30 minutes is a total no,” Peterson said. “We promised something when we first did this, and then we went ahead and changed it and made everyone mad. I really don’t feel like changing it again, and looking like we don’t know what we’re doing up here making these decisions.”
Ray, Russell and Peterson were also against implementing parking kiosks at the downtown Farmer’s Market. The trio, however, expressed interest in extending the operating times for downtown parking meters from 9 p.m. up to possibly 11 p.m.
“I think expanding the hours makes sense because there’s certainly a night crowd,” Ray said. “How late is late, I’ll leave that up to the professionals. But certainly, people are in town after 9 p.m. – just drive through town and you’ll see them all.”
Whatever option the council lands on, Russell suggested that council regularly circle back to parking meter issue to “tweak the margins,” perhaps even on a quarterly basis.
City council meetings can be viewed in full at ci.rochester.mi.us under the “City Webcast” page. The Rochester City Council is scheduled to meet next on Monday, June 11.