Don’t delay in exploring city parking options

It was a year ago that Warren government leaders decided to enter into an abbreviated parking contract with existing parking manager Warren Parking Systems.

The decision to ink a limited 16-month deal — less than half the length of previous three-year pacts — followed months of debate largely over financial issues.

The contract covers management of the city’s downtown parking deck, a downtown parking lot and parking enforcement for about 300 on-street city parking spaces. For years, the city has spent way more money on managing parking than it has collected from Warren’s paid parking spots.

This has been a point of contention for some, including council member John Brown, who has been a vocal opponent of spending more public money on city parking management than the parking fees generate.

After much debate in summer 2017, council finally approved the shortened contract after assurances that this would give city leaders some needed time to explore fresh new ideas that could save the city some of the cash it doles out to pay for a parking management company or even generate some new revenue from downtown parking.

The contract was signed Sept. 12, 2017, calling for the city to pay Warren Parking Systems $6,392 per month or $102,272 over the 16-month pact.

Now we are more than 11 months into that contract, and with just about 4 1/2 months until the contract expires, there has been some talk, but little action.

Only last month a meeting was held with downtown stakeholders like downtown merchants, to discuss varied parking recommendations.

Anthony Iannucci, president of Warren Parking Systems, has offered some suggestions to city council, but Councilman Brown, D-3rd Ward, said this week he is unaware of any further discussions about the future of downtown parking.

Now Warren’s Director of Public Service Enzo Cantalamessa said he is considering asking council to approve paying for a parking study. However, he is unsure of the details, including the cost or the length of the study.

Again, we ask, what has taken so long to get to this point?

And again, we urge the city administration to explore possible new cost-saving approaches to downtown parking operations.

Maybe no management company is even needed.

Cantalamessa and Mayor Doug Franklin could explore the installation of automated parking meters, either on the downtown parking spaces or at the entrance to the parking deck, for example. These meters could utilize debit or credit cards rather than cash. This method, being utilized in many other cities, would enable collection without visiting each meter every day to gather bags of coins.

Cantalamessa has said he believes some fee should exist to park in downtown that would, at the very least, negate the cost of parking operations.

We agree.

As it is, the parking services contract costs taxpayers more than it generates. Let’s be creative and explore new options now before we get any closer to the contract’s expiration.

And let’s pick up the pace to do it before we are forced again to extend the costly existing contract.