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Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, the private board that has operated the city's seven parking ramps and two surface lots for 51 years, is facing competition from three parking companies that say they can do better.

In the first formal bidding on city parking operations, the Buffalo Board of Parking received proposals from BCAR, as the current operator is known, as well as from Pro Park, Standard Parking and Central Parking Systems.

"We have a special session scheduled for next Thursday, when a subcommittee will give the proposals a closer look. We're also seeking for outside help in analyzing the bids," said Henry Gorino, the parking board's newly installed chairman.

The board will select a certified public accountant to analyze the four proposals.

The proposals, he said, appear to offer a variety of approaches.

"We'll know a lot more after we work through the numbers and compare them," he said.

The proposals, opened at a public session of the parking board, rely on a variety of formulas, some charging a management fee, others a percentage of parking revenues.

Central Parking proposed an annual management fee of $4,142, plus 5 percent of net income exceeding $5 million. Standard Parking is seeking a $2,500 management fee, plus 1.45 percent of total net income. Pro Park's proposal forgoes an annual fee in favor of 8.25 percent of net income exceeding $6 million.

BCAR submitted a more complicated plan, resulting from its status as nonprofit agency established in 1954 by downtown merchants and bankers to oversee city parking facilities.

In its budget for the fiscal year that will end June 30, BCAR pegged revenue at $8.5 million, with operating expenses at $3.6 million. Those expenses include the $80,000 a year salary of Kevin J. Helfer, its executive director.

The board also paid about $100,000 in consultant fees to its attorney and financial analyst. BCAR "shareholders" do not receive remuneration from parking operations.

After expenses, the balance of parking income goes to the city to help repay the debt incurred in building the facilities and to provide the city's parking enterprise fund a guaranteed $450,000 per year.

BCAR proposes to continue managing city parking operations under essentially the same terms as its current pact.

The city's decision to seek competitive proposals for operating its parking facilities has not sat well with BCAR executives, who maintain their expertise and the agency's nonprofit status offer parkers the best deal.

"There is no doubt in my mind that BCAR's relationship with the city is the best for all involved. It was progressive 50 years ago, and it has stood the test of time," Helfer said.

He cited the board's tax-exempt status as a huge advantage.

"We don't have to tack 8.25 percent sales tax on parking fees, we don't pay sales tax on our equipment and supplies. The other bidders will have to calculate the costs of sales tax into their operations," he said.


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