• 46°

Oxford can afford parking garage; consultant asked to determine need

While the city of Oxford can afford a downtown parking garage, according to a report by Timothy Haahs and Associates, the debate remains as to the true need for the structure.

During Friday’s meeting of the Downtown Parking and Advisory Commission, Haahs presented a report that was contracted by city officials to review the city’s assessment of its parking system’s financial position after the garage is built.

“One financial benefit of the parking structure, which is difficult to estimate, is that the new parking garage will provide the infrastructure that may enable other development and expansion downtown,” the report reads. “As noted in the Vision 2037 plan, a parking garage could likely serve as a catalyst for others as they contemplate bringing a new land use such as hotels, into or on the periphery of downtown.”

Mike Martindale, with Haahs, presented the report to the commission via conference call. While the commissioners were pleased to see what Haahs conquered with the commission’s revenue model, City Engineer and Public Works Director Bart Robinson said the report was incomplete.

“We asked you to study whether we need a garage now and will we need one in the future,” Robinson said, mentioning that a report sent by Haahs on May 30 said that there is sufficient parking to meet the downtown needs.

“That concerns me,” Robinson said Friday.

Last year, the commission considered three financial models to determine if there would be enough revenue to pay for the garage, and, in November, presented the models to the Oxford Board of Aldermen who chose the funding model to be used once the garage is built.

The Aldermen chose a model where parking in the garage would cost .50 cents an hour. The 92 parking spaces located outside of the garage in the same lot would remain free, along with the parking lot near the Oxford Park Commission office under the Oxford water tower. Outer parking lots that are currently free would cost $0.75 an hour, and parking spaces currently metered around the Square would remain at the current rate of $1.25 an hour.

In the report provided by Haahs, the revenue from the model chosen by the Aldermen would cover the $700,000 a year bond payments for the garage, with an estimated $375,895 in net income over and above expenses to be used for maintenance and upgrades.

During the meeting, Robinson told Martindale that the city needs Haahs to complete the report and determine the need for the garage.

“We’ve got to establish the need before we spend $11 million,” Robinson said. “If we need it for one hour a day, that’s not a true need. If we need it six hours a day, then that’s a true need. But if we need it six hours a day only one month out of the year, I don’t know if that’s a true need.”

Commissioner Mike Harris, who is also head of Parking and Transportation for the University of Mississippi, said the commission has put in four years of work, collecting data and reviewing parking trends before coming up with the conclusion that Oxford does need a parking garage.

“I’ve never been part of a project that has had this amount of work and detail put in,” Harris said.

Martindale said he would review the data given to Haahs by the commission and come up with a statement in regards to the need by Monday. Martindale will present both reports to the Oxford Board of Aldermen at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall during their regular meeting.