August 1, 2006
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer
Aetna, for the first time, will charge employees for parking in Hartford, an unwelcome prospect for workers in the city and the thousands being moved up from Middletown offices by 2010.
Aetna won't tell employees how much it will cost them until the end of August, and the company plans to phase in the charges next year for garage parking, and in 2008 for those who use the company's parking lots.
The decision will affect the 2,800 employees who work for Aetna in Hartford now, and the 3,600 workers who Aetna said Friday would be transferred to the city by 2010.
It costs the company a lot to lease city and state land for parking, and to maintain the lots, including snow removal, Aetna spokesman Fred Laberge said.
He said the company would subsidize half of those costs, and the parking charges to employees would reflect the other half.
"We're trying to become a more cost-efficient company," Laberge said.
Aetna also plans to start charging workers for parking in other urban locations, but it was unclear Monday whether employees in Middletown would be charged. The company owns the land in Middletown and a data center on it, but leases the larger main building.
There were 4,527 employees at the Middletown complex as of the end of June, and roughly 300 IBM workers at the site under an outsourcing contract with Aetna.
The company's confirmation of the parking fees is "just one more thing ... after small raises, being relocated, and the cost of gas going up," said an Aetna Middletown employee who will be moved to Hartford.
"There hasn't been a huge uproar" about the parking charges because they were rumored for a long time, she said.
With Aetna's plans to build a new Flower Street garage and add more surface parking in Hartford, "it's nice we won't have to park under the highway and have the pigeons poop on our cars," the employee said.
Laberge noted that Aetna will increase its subsidy sometime in 2007 for employees who commute to work by public transportation or van pools, from the current $21 a month to $30.
Aetna joins other companies that already charge employees for parking, including The St. Paul Travelers Cos. and ING Group.
ING charges $35 to $115 a month, depending on the parking location and the employee's salary. Travelers says it also bases parking fees on location and pay.
ING occupies Aetna's Tower Building in Hartford, but its lease expires at the end of 2007, and it plans to move to Windsor.
The move precipitated Aetna's plans to relocate 3,600 employees from Middletown to Hartford by 2010, after major renovations on its headquarters buildings.
Other Hartford companies, such as The Hartford Financial Services Group and The Courant, don't charge workers for parking.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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