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City council talks parking costs, construction

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Monday evening’s Athens City Council agenda was packed with two parking-related ordinances amending parking costs in meters in the city and encouraging the use of parking funds to fix the city’s crumbling parking garage.

The Ordinance 20-15, which if passed will go into effect on May 1, would increase the cost of parking in metered spots in the city from $0.50 per hour to $0.75 per hour, a $0.25 increase per hour of parking.The increase will have Athens city parking patrons paying $0.25 for 20 minutes of parking.

The city is not only looking to increase prices, but also make changes to their parking systems, affecting how Athens parking patrons pay for their parking meters. Third Ward Rep. Michele Papai said the change has been influenced by Ohio University’s switch to the parking service ParkMobile.

“People have gotten used to swiping their cards,” said Papai. “We’re looking into multiple different systems.”

However, Papai said she has no idea what particular system the city will move forward with and many different options are being considered.

This is not the only parking issue that the council discussed at their meeting. Ordinance 21-15 calls for improvements to the municipal parking facility. The six-floor parking garage on the corner of College and Washington streets has not been updated since the 1990s, Papai said.

The other members of the council agreed that public safety was a huge concern with the parking garage crumbling around them.

“We don’t want anyone getting hit by falling cement,” said Second Ward Rep. Jeffrey Risner. “The garage needs to be repaired, no ifs ands or buts.”

At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson voiced his agreement and his worry that “someone could get killed.”

Papai said the need to stay on schedule is definitely a necessity of the parking garage project moving forward.

The construction on the parking garage will be a 15 to 18 month process with portions of the parking garage being closed to the public. The changes are expected to take place as early as December of this year. The city is aiming to work during a time when the parking garage will not be utilized by students. Papai said it is not known, as of now, whose parking spots will get priority over others when the construction begins.

Currently, city officials do not pay for their parking in the parking garage. Papai said the city has not considered having city officials pay for their own parking spots, and she’s unaware if their parking will take precedent over that of students or faculty using the parking garage as a convenient place to park near campus.

The funds generated for construction on the parking garage will not only go to structural repairs but also to fix the garage’s elevator. The ordinance states that $2 million are authorized to be spent on the project to repair the garage’s elevator and to do any structural repairs to the buildings.

However, Papai wants everyone to remember that for now, the parking garage is safe.

“This isn’t happening this week,” said Papai. “This is years down the line if we don’t work now to get these problems fixed.”

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