Mayor Bob O’Dekirk again is pushing the idea of free parking downtown.
Free parking would reverse a step taken early this year when the city increased parking rates to cover deficits in the parking fund and pay for maintenance in the decks.
O’Dekirk at the Tuesday meeting of the City Council said he believed the city went in the wrong direction. He asked the council’s Economic Development Committee to explore possibilities to “make parking cheaper and ultimately free” downtown.
He did not suggest how it could be done, but posed the possibility of a sale of one of the two downtown parking decks.
“We should be looking to make parking free in downtown Joliet,” O’Dekirk said. “There is an individual who wants to buy one of the parking decks.”
O’Dekirk did not say who wants to buy the deck, but he has previously mentioned real estate developer John Bays, who owns several buildings downtown, as having an interest in the issue.
It’s not the first time O’Dekirk has suggested free parking.
He opposed the increase in downtown parking rates and has called for reversing the hike once before.
Economic Development Committee Chairman Larry Hug said the committee will take up the issue at some point.
But Hug said Wednesday that he did not see how parking facilities could be maintained if there was no charge for their use.
“Free parking on the streets, that can be easily accomplished,” Hug said, noting downtown streets need to be maintained like other streets around town. “But free parking at the decks and surface lots that require maintenance, how do you pay for maintenance?”
Hug said many people point to free parking in downtown Naperville. But, he said, Naperville businesses pay a special tax to fund the parking facilities.
A Naperville official confirmed that the city has a Special Service Area tax downtown that funds parking facilities. Downtown restaurants and bars also pay a higher food and beverage tax to fund parking.
The Economic Development Committee meets Monday. Hug said he did not know if downtown parking would be an item on the agenda.