Parking Commission reports strong revenues from meters, leases and fines

The Missoula Parking Commission is looking to fund five new requests to better address the maintenance of two aging parking structures and care for its new digital parking meters as part of the city’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

All five requests would be funded by revenues generated by the parking commission, including meters, leases and fines, and would not be taken from the city’s general fund.

Rod Austin, director of the parking commission, said Wednesday that an additional employee to conduct maintenance topped his list. Much of the duties would be related to snow removal, including the top floor of several downtown parking garages.

The position is budgeted for $47,000 a year.

“I’ve learned how damaging snow and ice is to structures, and Central Park is a great example of that,” said Austin. “Running water has begun to rust some of the bars in the cement, and running water from floor to floor just helps a garage deteriorate faster. We’re hoping that the additional maintenance staff will help get those jobs done.”

Austin is also looking to contact an inspector for $30,000 to recommend repairs to at least two parking garages, including Central Park. That structure is 27 years old and may not last its projected 50 years without some “tender, loving care.”

“I know both structures need someone to look at them and make recommendations for repairs,” Austin said. “Central Park should be halfway through its life cycle, but the rate it’s going now, it won’t last the rest of that goal.”

The parking commission is one of a handful of city agencies that generates its own revenue. Austin said the bulk of that comes through meters, leases and fines, and revenue is up in all categories.

So far this year, meter revenue has exceeded its $70,000 monthly projection, running as high as $90,000 in some months. At the same time, Austin said, maintaining the new digital meters costs more than the old coin-fed machines.

“There’s software and connectivity expenses that generally run around $8,000 a month, maybe a little more than that now,” Austin said. “We’re trying to work in the additional maintenance that goes into handling the meters. The old coin meters weren’t as complicated as these things are.”

The parking commission also increased the lease rates for all downtown lots and garages this month. As it stands, Austin said, the lease opportunities are full.

He attributed a portion of the demand to First Interstate Bank working to lease an entire floor, and the new Mercantile hotel, which is expected to come online next December.

“They currently have access to the 30 they originally had, and now they’re starting to lease an additional 30 and are looking for some more,” Austin said. “That’s putting additional pressure on that.”