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Council majority votes down mayor’s plan for parking

NIAGARA FALLS – The City Council majority on Monday rejected a $1 million proposal from the Dyster administration to remake the city’s downtown parking system.

The three-member majority, in a 3-2 vote, defeated a plan to set aside funding to buy equipment, including pay-and-display meters in parking lots, for on-street parking and in the city’s ramp in the former Rainbow Centre mall.

“There’s no reason for us to pay a million dollars at all,” Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian said.

The parking plan, recommended by Desman Associates, a firm hired by the city two years ago to conduct a parking study, aims to get the city out of the parking business as much as possible, Mayor Paul A. Dyster said.

The plan calls for the establishment of a city parking director who, under the proposal, would oversee a firm hired by the city to run the system.

Under the proposal, funding also was to be set aside to pay a consulting firm to oversee the plan’s implementation.

At the time the plan was developed, the cost of implementation was estimated at $840,000.

The proposal was set aside by lawmakers at the time because the city did not have the funding to implement it.

Under a November 2011 agreement between the city and USA Niagara Development Corp., the state’s economic development agency for the Falls, the city must submit a plan for the management of the parking ramp in the former Rainbow Centre, including better revenue collection and control measures.

Choolokian said he believes the city does not have to fork over so much cash, and can save money as other cities do by partnering with parking companies and sharing the revenue. He also said the city should not have to pay for any equipment.

Choolokian, citing a presentation from the consultants from early 2012, said he’s also wary of the creation of a city parking manager and the “outsourcing” of some of the work now performed by city employees.

Choolokian said the resolution for Monday’s Council meeting was the first time he’s heard anything about the proposal since early 2012.

Right now, without meters on the downtown streets, the city’s enforcement mechanism is to have police officers keep track of potential violators

In terms of city employees, the city’s two full-time workers whose duties include working in the ramp would be given other work, were the plan to be implemented. The city would also ask whichever company is hired to oversee the system to reach out to the city’s seasonal and temporary parking workers, of which there are a handful, about potential employment, Dyster said.

Consultants predicted the city could generate more than $1 million annually in parking revenue downtown, if the plan was implemented. But that level of revenue would flow into city coffers only from the outset with the city’s up-front investment in the equipment, Dyster said.

His administration’s proposal called for money from the city’s share of casino revenue to be set aside.

“This doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything to implement,” Dyster said.

The mayor said the issues of city employees and up-front payment were explained to the Council when the plan was initially presented.

Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti voted in favor of the proposal with Councilman Charles A. Walker.

In other city business, Dyster will present his proposed budget for next year at 4:30 p.m. today in Council Chambers in City Hall.