Ease of use comes with new fees

City plans to upgrade parking meters, more recycling

In 2013, motorists will be able to pay for their street parking with credit cards, preloaded smart cards, apps on their smartphones or still feed the parking meter with the loose change, but parking rates also would increase by about 40 cents an hour as a consequence.

Durango’s recycling capacity also would expand in 2013 to include more plastics, but residents would also be charged a new $3 monthly fee for curb-side pickup, and those who drop off their recyclables at the Recycle Center on Tech Drive would be charged a new $1 fee per 64 gallon container.

Commercial haulers of recyclables would pay about $2 per cubic yard when delivering materials to the recycle center.

Durango City Council on Tuesday discussed the fee increases as part of the city’s 2013 budget, which is set for final adoption on Dec. 11. However, the recycling and parking systems are not expected to be implemented until a few months into the new year, perhaps February for the single-stream recycling and March or April for the sophisticated parking meters.

Because downtown has been estimated to lack about 400 parking spaces, the upgraded parking meters are intended to increase turnover and generate more sales tax. The extra $400,000 in anticipated revenue from the new meters also will provide the funding to pay for a new parking garage or acquiring more surface parking lots.

“The city wants as many options (for new parking) as possible,” said City Manager Ron LeBlanc, noting that real estate prices often jump when the city expresses interest in a property.

New technology also will make paying for parking more convenient as consumers might even get a ping on their smartphones telling them their meter is about to expire.

Because of the conversion to the smart cards, which look like gift cards, the city will no longer use the prepaid parking meter keys, which had required consumers to pay a deposit. The smart cards won’t require deposit and consumers could prepay for as much meter time as much as they want.

Consumers also could swipe credit cards instead of digging for change. Because credit-card meters are more expensive, costing about $500 apiece, they must be bought brand new. The city anticipates buying 376 of these meters for just Main Avenue and for half a block on the side streets off Main.

The hot zone for credit-card meters would extend from the train station to 11th Street.

These meters would have a maximum duration of three hours. The hourly rate would increase from 60 cents to $1.

Meters farther from Main Avenue would be cheaper, but would still take the smart cards or the cellphone “apps.” These meters would cost the city about $75 to $100 to purchase.

Rates would vary depending on location and duration.

All two-hour meters would be converted to three-hour meters. The hourly rate would increase from 30 cents to 75 cents an hour.

The city would convert its 24-minute meters to 30 minutes with a new hourly rate based on $1 instead of 60 cents. So consumers would pay 50 cents for 30 minutes.

The hourly rate for 10-hour meters would increase from 30 cents to 75 cents.

While consumers might pay 75 cents to $1 an hour next year, officials said Durango would still be comparable, or cheaper, to other regional cities, such as Colorado Springs, which charges $1 an hour, or Boulder, which charges $1.17 on average. Grand Junction, however, charges an average of 50 cents an hour.

Before the rates went into effect, they would still be subject to public hearings and negotiations with vendors. So the rates could still change.

“The only thing to be certain of is that you can pay with more than a handful of change,” said Amber Blake, the city’s intramodal transportation director.

The city also justifies new recycling fees to pay for operating costs and to begin to pay back $500,000 it took out of savings to help pay for the expanded single-stream system.

“We took money out of the savings account to buy the truck, expand the building, buy the cans,” LeBlanc said. “There will be $162,000 (in new revenue) that goes back in the fund balance (each year) to build it back up.”

In three years, when the fund balance for recycling is whole again, the City Council will decide whether to adjust rates.

The city also anticipates bigger savings and more revenue as a result of transporting less trash to the landfill or increases in commodity prices for recyclables.

“We’re getting closer to sustainability,” said Roy Petersen, the city’s director of operations.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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