Harrisburg mayor suggests parking shakeup following revenue dip

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Ears perked up when Dauphin County Chief Clerk Chad Saylor told ABC27 News that parking rates may be raised to pay for parking garage repairs if the City of Harrisburg doesn’t concede receiving its share of revenues.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse on Monday called the bleak ultimatum a bully tactic. He said the problem is not crumbling parking garages, but a crack in the foundation of the Harrisburg Strong Plan’s parking revenue projections.

Because of this, there is less money in the Capital Reserve Fund for improvement projects, such as parking garage repairs. According to the parking asset transfer agreement, the city is owed “waterfall” payments, or money left over after all other parking expenses are paid.

Saylor admitted this was an issue.

“The amount of revenue coming over the waterfall after all the other expenses are paid is not as much as we thought it would be when we did the original projections,” he said. “It’s more like a trickle.”

Saylor contends that the city still receives annual payments before the waterfall payments and that the city conceding on these payments would only ensure the parking system remains profitable and sustainable without raising rates.

“We put off the repairs and allow the buildings to continue to deteriorate or we make parking rates to pay for the repairs,” Saylor said.

Papenfuse doesn’t see it that way.

“If financially it’s so dire and we cannot make enough money with the correct operator and asset manager, maybe we need to look for a different operator and a different strategy,” he said.

Papenfuse believes if Standard Parking cannot operate a profitable system, get a company in there that can. He said one of the biggest reasons the city agreed to the Harrisburg Strong Plan under Mayor Linda Thompson was that Harrisburg would receive the payments over a 40-year period.

Without those waterfall payments, Papenfuse said the city could lose out on $100 million over the term of the lease. and he doesn’t think it’s fair for Dauphin County or state stakeholders to change their minds after the ink is dry.

“We’re not going to reopen a waterfall, which was the very basic premise for how the deal was agreed to,” Papenfuse said.

The mayor also wants parking managers to either take less or forgo performance bonuses before the city gets stiffed.

“The county would like to change that and jeopardize whether or not the city would get its payment on a yearly basis by putting other things ahead of that first,” he said. “There are solutions for this and the county and the city really need to sit down and work out other possible mechanisms.”

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