Council examines City Manager's proposed parking plan - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

City council examines proposed parking plan


While the City Administration's $92 million dollar parking lease has yet to gain the official green light from council, the question of how to spend the potential windfall remains equally unresolved.

If council adopts the Administration's recommendation, nearly $47 million would be set aside to help balance the city's 2014 and 2015 fiscal year budgets.

"We need to think about the health of the city long term until 2043 not just how we can get through next year and the year after that," Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld emphasized Wednesday.

While the parking lease would last 30 years, in just two years roughly 93% of the upfront cash would be spent.

"I'm not sure that's the financial stewardship that people are looking for," argued Sittenfeld.

On the other hand, $6.3 million would be added to the city's reserve account to bring the account to the goal of eight percent savings.

"That helps our bond rating tremendously, makes it easier for us to borrow," Councilman Cecil Thomas argued.

The Administration's spending proposal also includes funneling $20 million towards the I-71 MLK interchange. According to a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Transportation, if council approves the funding the project could receive an additional 20 points on its TRAC rating potentially fast-tracking the project. Currently the city's $4 million investment in the project is not enough under the TRAC formula to garner any community investment points. The project's total budget is estimated at $60 million although a revised budget is expected to be announced at the end of the month.

Another project that would see funding under the Administration's plan is Smale Riverfront Park. The park would receive $4 million in investments to build the Vine Street Fountain and the carousel before the 2015 All-Star Game.

In addition, the City Manager is proposing spending $12 million to leverage and additional $82 Million dollars in private investments to convert Tower Place mall into a multi-use parking and retail facility. The Pogues Gargage would be transformed into a 30 story mixed-use residential space with 300 luxury apartments and  a grocery store on the ground floor.

Three million would be set aside for Right-of-Way acquisition for the development of the Wasson Lane bike trail.

Sittenfeld is concerned the scope of the recommended projects is too geographically narrow. The city says 12 neighborhoods would be directly impacted by the proposed funding. 

"That means 40 neighborhoods weren't mentioned at all," Sittenfeld said. "Downtown has experienced a lot of momentum; we need to pivot that to the rest of the city."

"Uptown and downtown are the lifelines of our city," Thomas argued.

Cecil Thomas believes investing in those areas will have the biggest, farthest-reaching payoff long-term.

"It would be great if we had enough money to just spend in every neighborhood when we chose to but we don't," he recognized. "We do have a mechanism by which we can generate revenue which can then reach into some of these other neighborhoods."

Most council members  told FOX19 they are waiting on the public hearings to decide where they stand on the proposed spending plan for the $92 million that would come from the parking lease.

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