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Council doubles summer parking rates

The City Council voted Tuesday to double the rates at the city's parking lots and ramp but rejected hiring a parking manager to oversee those operations.

Under Councilman Sam Fruscione's approved parking scheme, the daily fee at all city parking lots and the ramp on Rainbow Boulevard South will increase to $10 from $5 from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Also, monthly parking passes will go up to $40 from $30 March 1.

One resident urged councilmen Tuesday not to raise the rates, saying that would send the wrong message to visitors.

Last week, John Faso, the general manager of the Conference Center Niagara Falls said that people attending conferences would not pay $5 to park in the Rainbow Ramp because it is too dirty and dilapidated. He questioned whether people will pay $10 to park there.

Council members, however, said they need to increase revenue and want to charge the same amount -- $10 -- that visitors pay a couple blocks away in Niagara Falls State Park.

"If you have no money coming in, you can't improve [the ramp]," Council Chairman Charles Walker said. "Hopefully this increase will help."

The city owes $4.5 million for parking projects and spends more than $600,000 each year from the city's general fund to operate the lots. Fruscione said if the number of people using the city's lots this summer equals last year's total, the higher rates would increase revenue by $169,065 for a May through September total of $574,200.

Walker and Councilman Chris A. Robins said they would like a parking facilities manager to manage the revenue increase. Both voted Tuesday for Mayor Vince Anello's proposal to restore the position he created in 2004, which he says is needed to run the parking lots properly.

The $38,725-per-year job was eliminated from this year's budget, and Councilmen Fruscione, Lewis Rotella and Robert Anderson Jr. successfully voted to keep it out.

They argue that Anello's plan to pay for the position out of the already-reduced temporary line of the parking budget won't work because the city then won't have enough to pay seasonal workers.

City Controller Maria Brown has said she monitors temporary lines each month to make sure they stay within her projections, but apparently that didn't appease the three Council members.

Lou Cheff, the former parking facilities manager, has continued to work for the city as a temporary parking attendant since Jan. 1.

Also at the meeting, the Council voted to establish a municipal building construction committee to serve as a volunteer advisory board on the city's planned courthouse and police department building project.

The Council and city administration will choose three members each, while the Main Street Business and Professional Association will choose one. Recommendations are expected at the Council's Feb. 27 meeting.


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