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Thu, March 21

Garage update eases use concerns

PRESCOTT – Any remaining concerns about the mixed-use parking garage proposal that M3 Companies submitted to the city appeared to dissolve this week.

At their regular study session Tuesday, members of the Prescott City Council heard an update on the progress on the downtown parking garage.

That update included a detailed explanation about the history of the garage plans and why an advisory committee recommended the proposal that M3 Companies submitted.

Much of the update centered on questions about the process that Councilman Robert Behnke brought up several weeks ago on why the committee chose the M3 proposal, when another plan would cost about $1 million less.

When the city went out for proposals for a public-private partnership to build the downtown parking garage, it received 11 proposals. The committee ultimately narrowed the field down to two – M3's plan to combine a parking garage with apartments and office space; and a proposal from Linthicum to build a basic parking ramp.

Greg Fister, economic development coordinator for the city, wrote a six-page memo, which dealt with many of Behnke's questions.

Fister's memo pointed out that the committee members appeared to prefer M3's mixed-use approach from the beginning.

"When the committee members met, there was discussion about weighing the criteria (for the garage), but in the end, the committee decided against it," Fister wrote. "Compatibility with downtown, appearance, and cost were the three most likely candidates for additional weight, but in a

very short time, the committee determined that M3 was the desired choice without weighted criteria."

Added Fister: "Since M3 was very strong in those potential weighted categories, the committee believed no purpose would be served to weigh the categories."

Councilman John Steward, who operates a downtown business, said the downtown business community appears to believe the M3 proposal "does more to enhance the downtown than just a basic parking garage."

After the meeting, Behnke said Fister's memo and explanation answered his questions about the process. "If they had done this (the in-depth explanation) from the beginning, I wouldn't have had the questions," Behnke said.

He added that the downtown merchants seemed to prefer the M3 option. "It was very obvious that the mixed plan is what people wanted," Behnke said.

Along with the explanation about the process, the council also appeared to accept a plan for a "memorandum of understand-

ing" with M3 that would set out

the obligations and responsibilities of both the city and M3 during

the upcoming contract negotiations.

The memorandum would allow M3 to get started on the design and engineering of the garage before the two sides have resolved all of the contract details.

Under the provisions of the memorandum, "if for some reason, the entitlements (of the contract) are not approved or agreements not reached, the city would reimburse M3 its costs for design and engineering from the time the (memorandum) is approved until the denial of an entitlement or agreement," stated the explanation memo for the city.

The reimbursement could not exceed $75,000.

The memorandum of understanding would save several months in the design and construction schedule.

The construction of the garage will take about eight months. City officials say the garage could be up and running by late summer of 2001.

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