Board will be asked to allow staff to proceed with issuing a Request for Proposals and then take an estimated 90 to 120 days to decide on the best equipment
It is listed as agenda item VI.3 for the Sarasota City Commission meeting scheduled for Sept. 6. And even though the board will be holding its first public hearings on the budget and millage rates that evening, item VI.3 is sure to garner considerable attention.
Scheduled under Unfinished Business during the session that will start at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall, it will be a “Review and approval of parking meter program.” The backup agenda material says Parking General Manager Mark Lyons will be seeking direction “for staff on the plans to move forward to the equipment review phase of paid parking …”
During his presentation, Lyons is expected to lay out a plan calling for 458 metered spaces comprising 11 percent of the total in downtown Sarasota. Those spaces will be the ones research has found to be the most desirable in the areas with highest usage, he pointed out in the backup agenda material. Those are on Main Street between Gulfstream Avenue and School Avenue; South Palm Avenue between Cocoanut Avenue and Ringling Boulevard; and on Ringling between School Avenue and Washington Boulevard.
People will have to pay to park in those spaces Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., the document says. The fee will be $1 per hour.
Lyons also acknowledges that some discussion has ensued about making a minimum of two spaces available for people to be able to park for free for 15 minutes on each of the blocks in the metered areas. He indicated that a decision on that proposal be left to the board.
In an Aug. 25 letter to the city commissioners, Lyons suggested the city issue a formal Request for Proposals to help staff identify metering systems with such desirable features as large screens, multiple payment options and easy-to-read instructions. After the responses have been vetted, he recommends field testing of the equipment of two or three vendors. That would encompass surveys of users, he notes. Following that process, Lyons anticipates that cost estimates for the equipment, installation details and staffing requirements can be analyzed. “This process could be accomplished within the next 90-120 days,” he wrote.
The final step would be for staff to bring the City Commission a budget for approval, along with an anticipated starting date for the metered parking.
In that Aug. 25 letter, Lyons reminded the city commissioners that the subsidies from the city’s General Fund to the Parking Fund have increased over the years; the expectation is that the amount for the 2017 fiscal year would be as much as $625,000.
“This reality makes fewer reserves available for other city programs like safety, parks, landscaping, building maintenance and others,” he added.
Further, with more than 3,000 new residential units under development in the downtown core, he continued, “the challenge … of finding parking downtown and enforcing current restrictions will continue to be a priority.”
Lyons also reminded the city commissioners that on May 2, during their regular meeting, he presented recommendations of the city’s Parking Advisory Committee for paid parking, which they accepted. As a result, Lyons wrote, staff convened that committee “to prepare a proposal that outlines a geographical footprint that would consist of the 458 metered parking spaces. Additionally, the committee “prepared a depiction of the retained free parking spaces [and] recommended days of meter operations, potential meter parking rates, and strategies for vetting equipment with the public.”
Three public meetings also have been held since May, Lyons noted. “There were many merchants that attended the meetings and expressed their discontent should the city proceed with the program,” he wrote. “Others expressed recognition of eventuality and the need to use paid parking, [but they said staff needs] to ensure it is done property with better equipment.”