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Local News

Joliet considers privatizing downtown parking

Barb Hannon, a parking enforcement officer for the city of Joliet, places March 24, 2014, a ticket on a vehicle for an unpaid parking meter on East Van Buren Street in Joliet. City of Joliet staff are scheduled to present Monday a proposal to privatize management of downtown parking.
Barb Hannon, a parking enforcement officer for the city of Joliet, places March 24, 2014, a ticket on a vehicle for an unpaid parking meter on East Van Buren Street in Joliet. City of Joliet staff are scheduled to present Monday a proposal to privatize management of downtown parking.

JOLIET – City of Joliet staff plans to present Monday a proposal to privatize management of downtown parking.

The privatization plan is the result of a study initiated in early 2014. The study results also will be presented Monday, Councilman Jim McFarland said.

“The conclusion of the study is to privatize it,” he said.

The study will be presented at the 4 p.m. meeting of the Joliet City Council Public Service Committee, which McFarland chairs.

He said he has not seen the study or the proposal to privatize. But he has questions concerning the potential impact, including whether a private company would need to raise parking rates to generate profit.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, in my opinion, before we say, ‘Let’s give this management company the rights to operate our parking decks and parking downtown,’ ” McFarland said.

From what he hears, McFarland said, the study recommends keeping the unpopular street-side parking meters. The meters, parking decks and commuter lots all would be run by a private management company.

City Manager Jim Hock could not be reached Wednesday to comment on the parking privatization proposal.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said the proposal was being created as a potential budget-cutting measure.

“We’re looking to save money,” O’Dekirk said. “We’re looking all over.”

O’Dekirk said the proposal will not go to the full City Council for a final vote next week, but was being presented for review by the Public Service Committee.

McFarland, however, said he has heard staff could be recommending a specific company to take over parking management.

Turning the city’s parking over to a private company is an idea that has been considered before, although it has never reached a point where the City Council was asked to vote on a contract.

Privatization has been viewed as one way to maintain and improve downtown parking decks. It also has been seen as a way to equip the decks with machines that can take debit and credit cards. Parking in the decks can be paid for only with cash now, although the price is relatively low at 50 cents an hour.

While rates may be low, business owners frequently say paying for parking is a deterrent to bringing customers downtown.

McFarland said he hears from restaurant owners who say customers tire of the need to leave the table to feed a meter for fear their time is running out.

The study surveyed downtown business owners, while also analyzing the numbers of spaces available, revenues generated by parking and the job the city does managing its parking operations.

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