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Parking rates set to increase

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Jerrin Roukema, a parking-compliance officer with the city of Durango, makes her rounds Tuesday afternoon on Narrow Gauge Avenue. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, councilors gave initial approval to an ordinance increasing parking-meter rates.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

The City Council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to rate increases for parking meters that would increase rates an average of 42 cents to 60 cents per hour, possibly by summer.

The council might re-evaluate the increase next year based on parking behavior.

The new rates would help pay for more sophisticated parking meters that would take payment from credit cards, prepaid cards and smartphone apps as well as encourage turnover downtown for the benefit of businesses and city sales-tax collections.

Amber Blake, the city’s multi-modal director, said the city also needs more revenue to plan for long-term solutions for future parking needs, such as a downtown garage and more public transportation.

Councilor Sweetie Marbury said she would support a bond for a garage because she did not think the city would ever have enough money from meters to pay for a parking garage. City Manager Ron LeBlanc said long-term debt makes sense to share costs with users 10 to 20 years in the future.

Consumers would not see changes until the new parking meters are installed, which might not be until summer.

The new rates are expected to increase revenue for the city by $141,320 annually.

Councilor Paul Broderick had concerns about “jacking up the rates.”

“You’re going to push a lot of people parking in the neighborhoods,” he said.

Broderick said the city should consider the potential consequences of an increase, saying it could scare away business. “To tinker (with sales tax) is very dangerous,” he said.

But Mayor Doug Lyon said “you would hear it from merchants if there was no turnover.”

The city staff would have flexibility to react to negative consequences. While there would be a maximum rate of 75 cents an hour, the staff could always decrease rates without getting approval from council.

The proposed parking-meter rate fee changes are 75 cent per hour at three-hour meters in the Central Business District, encompassing Main Avenue from Fifth to 11th streets, and on the side streets to the alley east of Main and to Narrow Gauge Avenue west of Main Avenue, according to a city memo.

The current two-hour meters on East Second Avenue and the side streets of the Central Business District would be converted from two-hour meters currently at 30 cents an hour to three-hour meters at 50 cents per hour. Existing 10-hour meter locations will remain unchanged. However, the hourly rate will be changed from 30 cents hourly to 50 cents an hour. Existing 24-minute meter times will be increased to 30 minutes at 50 cents per half hour.

Parking-citation fees are not proposed to change.

In other business:

The city was awarded a $216,000 state grant to purchase a new trolley for service on Main Avenue and a mini bus, which circulates through neighborhoods and goes to Mercy Regional Medical Center. The grant requires a local match of 20 percent.

The council approved a $4.8 million loan for the right to store 3,800 acre feet of water at Lake Nighthorse under the Animas-La Plata Project. The loan will be amortized over 20 years at an interest rate of 1.95 percent. City voters agreed to the loan in 2011.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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