NIAGARA FALLS – For the second time in six months, city lawmakers on Monday night shot down a proposal to revamp the city-run parts of the downtown parking system.
The City Council rejected, by a 3-2 vote, a proposal to hire a Boston, Mass.-consultant for up to $95,200 to implement a plan for city-owned parking lots and the city’s parking ramp in the former Rainbow Centre mall, plans that would include installing parking meters on some streets and upgrading equipment to collect parking fees at the ramp and lots. Last year, the overall costs of implementing the plans, including the cost of acquiring the equipment, were estimated at $1 million.
Supporters, including Mayor Paul A. Dyster, say changes to the system are needed because they would improve the overall economic development environment at a time when several projects are underway and more are coming. Updating the system would help the business climate and provide additional revenue to the city, since free parking is available in much of the downtown.
“We have a kind of chaotic situation with regard to parking in the downtown area. We need to fix that now as part of our downtown development,” Dyster said before Monday’s vote. “But we’re also, we’re leaving money on the table. We can’t afford to do that.”
Lawmakers had before them a proposed agreement with Desman Associates, which would have worked with the city as it implemented the new system.
Council Chairman Charles A. Walker joined Councilmen Robert A. Anderson Jr. and Glenn A Choolokian in voting against the measure. Last year, Anderson and Choolokian both voted against changes to the parking plan.
Walker, who voted for a similar measure at the end of September that was ultimately turned down by lawmakers, said after Monday’s Council meeting he would have preferred to see the matter tabled because he had additional questions and concerns.
Along with questions about what duties the new city position of parking director that would be created would perform, Walker said the overall discussion about how to improve parking should include the construction of a new ramp. The issue of building a new ramp has not been addressed in any recent public discussions about downtown parking.
Walker, who described the proposal as “a little different” than what came before lawmakers last year, said he needed to better understand what the city was getting out of the agreement before he could support it.
“Is this something that we can do on our own?” Walker said.
Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti and Councilman Andrew P. Touma voted for the proposal.
“We’ve been talking about this for years,” Grandinetti said. “It seems like a no-brainer.”