The number of free spaces could soon be reduced in Marietta's downtown parking lots as officials look for ways to cover repair and maintenance costs for those facilities.
"Right now the city doesn't have a fund established for parking lot maintenance," said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, who chairs council's finance committee.
He said currently when major repairs or maintenance is required on city lots, the cost is borne by the city's capital improvement fund.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Michelle Hesson of Williamstown crosses Marietta’s Parking Partners Lot recently with her children, Ella and Colt.
"But that fund should be used to purchase new trucks and fire vehicles or for construction on building restoration or roof replacements," Vukovic said.
To help pay for parking lot repairs and maintenance Vukovic and other council members have suggested establishing monthly paid parking spaces in city-owned parking lots, including the lot at the southeast corner of Butler and Second streets, the former Becky Thatcher lot on the south side of the National Guard Armory building on Front Street, and the lot in East Muskingum Park just north of the Putnam Bridge.
"My contention is, if members of the lands, buildings and parks committee agree, to set up some paid parking to pay for maintenance of each of those city lots," Vukovic said.
He said no determination has been made as to the number of paid spaces that would be developed in those lots.
The city also owns other parking lots downtown, including the Lafayette lot south of the Lafayette Hotel along West Ohio Street, and the Parking Partners lot in the 200 block of Second Street.
At this time only the Parking Partners lot offers monthly paid parking, and the city is not currently considering paid parking in the Lafayette lot.
Municipal parking lots
Marietta has five city-maintained parking lots in the downtown area:
1. The lot along West Ohio Street near the Lafayette Hotel.
2. Former Becky Thatcher lot at the south end of Armory Square in the 200 block of Front Street.
3. Putnam Bridge lot off Front Street between the bridge and East Muskingum Park.
4. City lot at the southeast corner of Butler and Second streets.
5. Parking Partners lot in the 200 block on the east side of Second Street.
"We have 125 spaces available for paid parking (in the Parking Partners lot), and 121 are currently rented out," said mayor's clerk Mary Grubert, who handles the monthly rentals for the city.
The spaces are leased at $25 a month which reserves the parking spots for the renter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. At other times those spaces may be used by anyone.
"They're available to anyone. We have college students who rent spaces in the Parking Partners lot, and downtown businesses often rent spaces for their employees," Grubert added.
Bill Dauber, Marietta's assistant safety-service director, said total gross revenue from the Parking Partners rentals is around $19,000 annually.
He was asked to develop a cost estimate for annual maintenance of the Parking Partners lot, and after consulting with city streets superintendent Todd Stockel and grounds foreman Tom Kunz, determined that figure to be around $6,296.
To cover that cost Dauber recommended the city put aside 34 percent of the annual Parking Partners revenue in the proposed parking lot maintenance fund. The rest of the revenue would go into the city's general fund.
A similar process could be used if paid parking is established in the city's other lots. But that proposal is still in the discussion phase and no deadline has been set for a final decision.
The current annual maintenance cost for the lots at Butler and Second Street, Armory and Putnam Bridge has not been determined, but would be minimal as all three of those lots are in good shape at this time, according to Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs council's lands, buildings and parks committee.
"In the past we've used CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds for parking lot repairs. But those federal monies are drying up every year, and the annual inheritance tax funding we used to receive from the state each year is no more, so we have to find some new funding sources for these projects," he said.
Rob Schafer, owner of Schafer's Leather Store on Front Street said the addition of some monthly paid parking spaces in downtown lots could be a good thing.
"It would be great if business owners would pay for those spaces for employees," he said. "Customers should always have prioritized parking. They want to park as close as they can to the store."
Schafer noted he has his own parking lot in back of the store for employees and customers, but other downtown businesses do not have that convenience, so employees often take up free customer spaces on the street or in city lots.
"There should be places where those employees can park, but the city should leave non-paid parking spaces for customers and those spaces should be closest to the stores," he said.
Jim Caporale, co-owner with wife, Sylvi, of American Flags and Poles on Front Street, said he thinks any business person would prefer all free parking in the downtown area.
"But we also understand that the city has to somehow be able to maintain their parking lots," he said. "And having a downtown business generates sales tax that could be used to help take care of those facilities. The more customers we have, the more sales tax for the city."
Caporale added that employers and employees also pay income tax to the city.
Quinn Needs, 21, of Marietta, said the city's parking space rental proposal makes sense.
"I could see having people pay for some parking to help maintain city lots," he said. "But there should also be a mix of free and paid parking."
Dee Ann Jackson of Aurora Street in Marietta agreed.
"I think it's an excellent idea to keep the city lots in good repair," she said. "They should have some paid spaces at every lot."
Leroy Dennison, 60, of McConnelsville, drives to Marietta at least once a month and said he rarely has a problem finding a place to park in the Parking Partners lot.
"But I can understand the idea behind charging for some parking spaces," he added. "The city can't re-pave a parking lot without some way to pay for it."
Michelle Hesson, 32, of Williamstown, said many younger people prefer to park in the diagonal spaces found in the city's parking lots rather than parallel park on city streets.
"I think they should keep (the diagonal spaces) open," she said. "But if the city had rental spaces available close to the college stadium, a lot of people would gladly pay a monthly fee to know they had a place to park in that area during sports events."
In addition to the downtown lots, the city also has parking lots located at Indian Acres Park and under the Washington Street Bridge, but Noland said those areas were not being considered for paid parking.