By Anna Grace Usery
The Oxford Board of Aldermen and Downtown Parking Advisory Committee met Tuesday, April 23 during a special meeting to discuss which revenue model for the downtown parking garage will go into effect Oct. 1. Though the Board adopted an original revenue model in November of 2018, the cost of the garage was more than they expected.
Once completed in late September, the garage will be a three-story, four-level parking structure that will provide about 401 spaces with an additional 90 surface parking spaces around the garage.
Though no vote was made, the Board kept going back to Scenario 3A after more than an hour’s worth of discussion.
Under this scenario, the garage’s estimated revenue is $194,905.63 for the 2020 year. Projections show the same revenue generated—but no growth—through 2029.
In the scenario, the first floor of the garage is priced at $1 per hour. Up to the fourth floor, there will be no cost until 6 p.m. and then 50 cents per hour after that mark. Parking lots off the Square, which will be enforced by automatic kiosks, will be 75 cents per hour. Each scenario retained metered parking at $1.25 per hour in the heart of the Square and free parking at the water tower. Parking will remain free on Sundays.
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill stressed the city wants to pay for this garage with parking revenues, not money from the general operating budget, but she posed several questions for the Board to consider.
“How do we get to that number equitably?” she asked. “How do we accommodate the employees who are ambassadors of the Square?”
Though no concrete decisions were made, the Board floated the idea of selling permits for the first floor of the garage and surrounding lots. Depending on the revenue plan they choose, permits could be from $20 to $125 per month. The consensus was to oversell the permits by 20 percent, with the thought that not everyone will be utilizing the permits and parking at the same time.
The city of Oxford contracted Kimley-Horn, planning and design engineering consultants, to come up with a revenue plan. Doug Swett, civil engineer at Kimley-Horn, joined the meeting via phone to answer questions the Board posed.
“They went above and beyond what we originally contracted them to do,” said Tom Sharpe, chairman for the DPAC.
Swett commended the Board on the way the city collected parking data.
“It made our job really simply already having all the data,” Swett said, which was “extremely beneficial.”
Though the Board does project growth in expenses, they did not take into account any special event revenue from events like football games and Double Decker weekend. Sharpe said special event revenue will be addressed in Phase Two with Kimley-Horn.
Tannehill said though paying for the garage is a priority, she wants to make sure the “ambassadors of the Square”—those who work in the downtown area—have access to parking.
Alderman Janice Antonow said she was concerned about not having enough free, accessible parking for Oxford citizens, especially those who are older.
The Kimley-Horn team researched other SEC towns to evaluate parking costs and structures. Sharpe said Starkville was the only town that had free parking in the downtown area.
“I think we’re able to provide choices for people to have ample overall parking,” he said. “(This proposed plan) takes into consideration minimum wage employees around the Square and accommodates the people who make (parking) choices for convenience.”
Antonow said in a way having choices could be a problem.
“I’m worried about the viability of our Square during the day. People can eat lunch anywhere,” she said, referencing the Jackson Avenue and University Avenue areas.
A litany of questions will be answered during Phase Two of the project with Kimley-Horn, Sharpe said, including the length and accessibility of permits and what the decals will look like.
“Any scenario we choose we have to collect data,” Tannehill said. “We’re making decisions on educated projections. And it’s going to take a year to see that. We will evaluate after a year.”
The Board plans to approve equipment costs at its first meeting in May. Permits and price schedules will be voted on in the second May meeting.