Board of Aldermen, Parking Commission discuss revenue models

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019

After months of discussion and debate, the Downtown Parking Commission presented the Oxford Board of Aldermen with downtown parking revenue models, one it recommends and one for the Board to consider.

Following a 73-minute discussion during a joint work session on Tuesday morning, the Board devised a plan for making a decision on the revenue model to use upon completion of the parking garage. . Since it was an informal meeting, no action was taken. However, after thorough discussion, the Board seemed to be ready to move ahead with Scenario 3A.

The Parking Commission recommended Scenario 1, but presented Scenario 3A as an additional model for the Board to consider. A few sticking points for the Board include projected permit prices, providing as much free parking to visitors of the Downtown Square and employees of businesses located on the Square as possible all while ensuring enough money is coming in to cover the cost of expenses associated with the new parking garage and equipment.

“This Board has agreed from the beginning that we want to pay for a garage with parking revenues, not the general operating fund,” Mayor Robyn Tannehill said during the work session. “We know the bond payment. We know what numbers we have to hit, and that’s critical. How we get there is the magic puzzle.”

Proposed in the Scenario 3A model, the first floor of the parking garage would cost $1 an hour all day. The second through fourth floors would be free until 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., the spaces would cost .50 an hour. Lots located off the Square such as the ones located behind City Grocery, City Hall, High Cotton and Something Southern would cost .75 an hour. All metered spots on the Square, considered to be premium spots, would remain at $1.25 an hour.

On event days, including Ole Miss football game days and the Double Decker Arts Festival, there will be a fee of $20 per spot in the parking garage.

The lot under the water tower behind the Oxford Park Commission’s office,  located behind The Powerhouse, remains free in every scenario.

Permits were heavily discussed, including the potential prices for each lot and the parking garage. The Board also asked the commission how it plans to allocate permits, and  the commission said premium spots on the Square will not be permitted, but the parking garage would be open to everybody. Revealed during the work session, the commission plans to oversell permits by 20 percent, going on the theory that all permits purchased will not be used  at the exact same time.

Several aldermen held heavy concern about making parking on and around the Square as accessible as possible to the business owners and employees, including Alderwoman Janice Antenow. She also expressed concern of the Ole Miss students taking up all the permitted spots in lieu of obtaining a parking permit on campus.

“We’re trying hard to wrestle with these competing needs and try to come up with a system that is the best mix of what our various parking constituents need, and would want,” Tom Sharpe of the Parking Commission said.

The parking garage is on target to hit its Sept. 24 projected completion date, and the new revenue model is slated to go into effect on Oct. 1. With five months remaining, the Parking Commission is ready to purchase the equipment needed, such as kiosks, for the garage and paid lots off the square. The Board requested more information from the commission to help them decide on a revenue model, including clarification on prices and allocation of parking permits.

At the conclusion of the work session, the Board agreed to consider approving the Commission to begin the process of obtaining necessary parking equipment. It will also consider approval for the Commission to seek a new contract with Kimley-Horn, a planning and design engineering consultant firm, to begin the second phase of the city’s parking study. During its May 7 meeting, the Board will declare its decisions and give notice to Oxford residents the date set for a public hearing regarding the revenue models.