Sep 16, 2013 1:25 AM by Eric Ross
Parking meters in downtown Manitou Springs went up with the promise of big payoffs for residents and tourists. Among them---a new parking garage to ease congestion in the area.
You were told by city leaders the money put into the meters would go toward parking improvement projects. However, if you think all the money stays in Manitou Springs, think again.
Parking meters have brought both positive and negative feedback since their installation in May.
"I think tourism would be a lot better if we didn't have paid parking," one resident said. "I just think it causes a lot more hassle than it helps."
Business owners like Faruk Sahin are still on the fence. On the plus side, he says it eliminates the abuse once associated with the 3-hour free parking rule.
"Some people are happy (with the changes) and some people are not," he said. "Either way, it seems like there are not enough spaces for people to park. People are driving around for 20 or 30 minutes trying to find a spot."
The City installed the parking meters to solve that exact problem.
"It has always been our intention to increase our parking capacity and so we are looking at places that we could actually install another parking lot in or perhaps we could build a parking garage," council member Coreen Toll said.
The City hired the company "Standard Parking" to enforce parking laws. To date, Manitou Springs has a total of 5 enforcement officers.
So how effective is the parking program? Below is data News 5 was able to obtain from Standard Parking and the City of Manitou Springs:
Total amount collected from parking tickets through Aug. 31: $112,390
Total number of citations written through Aug. 31: 5,612
Total cost to install the meters: $462,875
*This cost is not paid for with taxpayer dollars. Manitou Springs says Standard Parking absorbs this expense in exchange for monthly maintenance and operating costs.
So far, the City is waiting to collect $43,703.95 from unpaid parking citations.
Manitou Springs has a 5-year contract with Standard Parking and currently pays them nearly $38,000 each month for operating and maintenance expenses.
Following the money trail, the rest of the money collected from fines and parking fees goes into a general fund, meaning the money can be spent on multiple projects beyond parking and transportation improvements.
"We have talked about establishing an enterprise fund where money can only be used for specific purposes but we have not instituted that yet," Toll said.
This means that the City does not have to commit to spending money on parking improvements. While council member Coreen Tolls says that's certainly on the agenda for the near future, the City does have other priorities.
Toll explains one of the major concerns for the City of Manitou Springs involves flood mitigation projects following the Waldo Canyon fire. Funding for flood mitigation projects can come from both a general fund and enterprise fund.
Because the parking meter program is new, there's no definite date set in stone on when the City will begin construction on a new parking garage or lot. However, Toll says the program is profitable and without it, these future projects would not be possible.
As always, News 5 will keep you posted on any new parking projects in Manitou Springs.
Parking ticket background information:
According to the City's website, parking tickets must be paid within 30 days of the issue date or a late fee will be assessed. Failure to pay these fines could result in your fee being sent to a collections agency.
Payments can be made online, by phone, in-person, or via mail. If you feel you've received a ticket in error or would like to challenge the citation, you can file an appeal online or by calling 685-2549.
If you have a story idea or news tip you'd like the News 5 Investigates team to check out, email us at email@example.com
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