HARTFORD —— The city's proposal to seek bids for a long-term lease of its parking system has been indefinitely tabled.
Council members, who set aside the idea a second time earlier this week, said it's not likely to come up for a vote anytime soon.
"The public has been very clear that they think it's a very bad idea, and that did have some sway with council members," said Councilman Kenneth Kennedy. "It's not the most prudent thing to do fiscally with respect to our parking. We didn't think it was a sound financial decision for us to make."
The proposed lease agreement would involve nearly 6,400 parking spaces — both on-street and in garages. The long-term lease would provide the city with a large lump-sum payment in exchange for allowing an outside company to operate the facilities. The contract would run for 50 years, said David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer.
If the city council had approved the plan, officials would be looking for an upfront payment of about $80 million for the 50-year lease, he said. In one of its best fiscal years — 2007-08 — the city took in about $3.9 million in parking revenue. This year, it has received about $650,000 so far, Panagore said.
"When we put this together, we tried to minimize the risks to the greatest extent possible and maximize the benefits," he said. "The budget process isn't complete. We've got a finished product that could be considered and the option remains viable for the city."
The lump-sum payment would go into a trust, Panagore said, and the city would use the interest earned to ease future budget deficits. At this point, however, city officials are not including the parking lease idea in the 2011-12 budget, he said.
"We're not building into the budget any speculative activities," he said.
So far, Panagore said, four companies have expressed interest in the lease, including Nashville-based Central Parking and Hartford-based ProPark.
But for now, the city council has blocked the plan from going forward.
"If the opinion of council does change at some point, they can bring it back up," Kennedy said, "but right now, we're choosing not to do so."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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