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Sat, Oct. 19

Council reviews parking plan; Higher fines, longer limits on line

PRESCOTT – Higher parking fines, extended time limits for parking spaces on the street, and more than 200 leased spaces in the new parking garage could be in the future for downtown Prescott.

Those are just some of the recommendations that an ad hoc committee made to the Prescott City Council this week about the management of the city's downtown parking.

The committee has been working for several months to come up with answers to the questions people ask most often about the new parking garage: How much will it cost to park there? How will it affect the parking that already exists on the streets? Will parking fines go up?

Although the City Council took no action on the recommendations, several council members voiced support for the recommendations of the committee.

"This is a good starting point," Councilman Tom Reilly told the committee members in the audience Tuesday. "It gets us a lot further than we ever got before."

Committee member Roxanne Nielson, a business owner and member of the Prescott Downtown Partnership, made the presentation to the council.

She acknowledged that the committee struggled with some of the issues, and that not everyone will like all of the recommendations.

"There's going to be controversy, and there's no perfect system," Nielson said.

But, she added, "our goal is to make it as easy as possible for customers to park as close as possible to their downtown destination."

To that end, Nielson said, the committee members agreed that it would be best to try to get downtown employees to park in the new garage. That would leave more parking spaces on the streets for customers who may want to make a quick stop at a downtown business.

"There are about 1,000 downtown employees, and I think we could get about a fourth of them in the parking garage," Nielson said.

To encourage downtown employees to park in the garage, the committee suggested that employers or business owners lease portions of the garage. For a suggested $35 per month, a business owner would be able to lease a parking space in the garage.

Although the lease would not reserve a specific space, it would give the business owner or an employee seven-day access to parking in the garage.

The committee estimated that the city could lease out as many as 250 of the spaces in the garage. That would leave about 170 spaces that would be open for the public.

For the public spaces, the committee suggested that the city charge hourly rates. Under the committee's system, the first hour in the garage would be free, and the second hour would cost $1. After that, the cost would go to $2 for as many as four hours, and $4 for more than four hours.

To help raise revenue to pay for the maintenance and operation of the garage, special events would have their own fee schedule. The committee suggested that the city charge $4 a day to park in the garage during special events such as the Christmas parade and the July 4 celebration. Nielson said those spaces could turn over several times a day and bring in revenue for the garage.

In order to manage the parking garage, the city also would have to more tightly manage the spaces it has on the streets. The committee made a number of recommendations about the existing on-street parking.

For instance, the group suggested that the parking fine structure should change. Currently, the city charges $10 for parking violations.

The committee suggested that first-time offenders should have a chance to pay their fine on the day of the fine for a lower rate. If paid on the same day, a first-time ticket would be $5. But if the ticket is paid later, the fine would be $20.

For the second offense within one year, the fine would be $20. The third offense in a year would cost the offender $40, and the amount would continue to increase at $20 increments.

To help keep track of parking fines, the committee suggested that the city go to computerized ticket writers.

In addition, the committee suggested that the city increase the time limit for most on-street parking spaces from two hours to three. Nielson said that would give customers the time they need to eat lunch and run errands without worrying about a parking ticket.

The committee also would do away with the 30-minute parking spaces.

Mayor Sam Steiger suggested that the city hire a professional to manage the garage.

Nielson said the committee also will recommend that the city request proposals from interested managers.

At its special meeting before the study session, the council postponed decisions on the agreements that will make the parking garage plans final. The city is still awaiting a final number on the cost of building the garage.

The city plans to enter a partnership with the M3 Companies to build the garage on Granite Street. Along with the parking deck, the building will include 52 apartments, along with office space.

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