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Parking garage in budget?

While the Oxford Downtown Parking Advisory Commission hasn’t made a for- mal announcement as to whether they’ve determined if Oxford needs a parking garage, members spent two hours Friday evaluating pros and cons of suggested locations and whether Oxford can afford to build and maintain one.

“The main question is, can we build this thing and not raise taxes?” asked Mayor Pat Patterson.

Earlier this month, chairman Tom Sharpe presented figures showing possible revenues that if the city charged $2 a day for the new parking garage and charged 50 cents an hour for city-owned lots that are currently non-me- tered, the city could raise an additional $339,000 a year. Last year, paid parking took in about $450,000 after expenses. Assuming a garage would cost about $10 million, the bond payment would be about $850,000 a year for 20 years. Other options included extending paid parking hours and making outlining lots 75 cents an hour to raise more money. The water tower lot would remain non-metered.

The commission agreed there were enough funding options to say with a certain amount of assurance the city could afford the garage without raising taxes.

“I think we’re as close to sure as we can be that we would not have to raise taxes,” Patterson said, answering his own question.

Commission mem- ber and University of Mississippi Parking and Transportation Director Mike Harris said even if the city started building today, it would be two years before the garage was done.

“If we don’t do something now, five years down the road people will ask why we didn’t address this earlier,” Harris said. “We have to look down the road and make decisions and sometimes those deci- sions are hard ones.”

The commission looked at the suggested sites that include behind City Hall, behind the Oxford-University Club and the corner of South 9th Street and East Jackson Avenue where the Rebel Book store is currently. That area is owned by three different property owners and there’s been no appraisals or offers to sell or buy the land.

Pros for the City Hall lot included it being convenient for pedestrians and vehicles getting in and out. Cons included it having limited capacity and the need for possible property acquisition to build a larger garage.

The lot behind the OU Club pros included being cheaper to build since the land was easier to access, decent pedestrian access, located closer to the west side of the Square where more restaurants are located and needing a less “attractive” garage which would cost less to build since it’s more hidden.

Cons included less viable ingress and egress options, vendor trucks needing space and losing a lot of parking during construction.

The South 9th Street location had a few pros, including giving some relief to area churches and being closer to the university but the cons included property acquisition, needing to be a more aesthetically pleasing garage which costs more and it did not have the support of the mayor.

Sharpe said the commission is expecting to decide on their final recommendation to the Board of Aldermen in two weeks at their next meeting.

“Then we should have a work session with the aldermen before formal- ly presenting our recommendation to the board,” Sharpe told the commission members.