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Parking Fund Rebounds Slowly After Pandemic
The mechanics and financing of public parking in Montpelier are as quirky and weighty as this winter’s weather pattern. Parking jurisdiction in Montpelier’s capitol complex, the four-block capitol district surrounding the Statehouse, is under the control of the state of Vermont. Montpelier is responsible for the rest of the city and designates specific budgetary and management responsibilities for parking among the police, fire, public works, and finance departments. Historically, public parking in the capitol complex and downtown has been an important component of business revenue for Montpelier. Before COVID-19 there were approximately 2,255 state jobs in Montpelier. To accommodate those employees, the capitol complex developed 903 parking spaces, of which 857 were reserved for state business. The city council has discussed working with the state to release some state parking spaces for city use. Revenue from parking lands in the city’s coffers either as a portion of the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) the city receives from the state, or in the city’s parking fund from parking meters, parking vending machines, permit revenue, and parking ticket violation payments. As of March 15, the city had collected $1,274,476 in PILOT payments. At the same time the city’s parking fund revenues totaled $429,774; expenditures and maintenance totaled $346,156; giving a net fund excess of $83,617 with 70% of the current fiscal year completed. The city budgeted $66,592 for lot leases and rentals for the entire year, $40,256 of which has been spent and is unchanged since January’s report.According to Kelly Murphy, assistant city manager, “Parking revenues continue to improve but are not yet at pre-pandemic levels.” In FY 2019 these revenues totaled $898,630.This year the city budgeted for $585,883 in parking fund revenue. The Montpelier Police Department Parking Division is responsible for parking enforcement and is staffed by one full-time and two part-time Community Service Officers, shared administrative support with the Fire and Emergency Department, and support from DPW for winter parking ban enforcement, for a total of 3.43 FTEs; up 1.43 from the previous year. These are not new positions according to City Manager Bill Fraser. “This is a shift in the allocation based on experience of what is required to run the parking fund. Pre-pandemic, costs were shifted from the parking fund to the general fund; this is a shift back into the parking fund.” The staff members assigned to parking are Michelle Amaral, Sheila James, Josh Taylor, and Trevor Carbo. One of the duties of the CSOs is parking meter maintenance; police officers, sergeants, and dispatchers are also involved in the enforcement and administration of the parking division. They issue parking tickets, are involved in parking enforcement, enter parking-specific computer data, and supervise and direct the parking enforcement personnel. A percentage of general fund expenditures for police, communications, and the DPW-streets division are offset by the parking fund. According to finance director Sarah LaCroix, the amount of the parking fund budget that is associated with police, parking, and communications is $483,687.91. Montpelier has over 400 meters and five permit vending machines in nine areas. The city has also fully adopted ParkMobile, a cell-phone app-based technology that allows people with smartphones to find and pay for parking, with an added fee for using the app, as “an easy and convenient way to pay for parking.” Barre also uses ParkMobile with the same fees, according to Fraser. There is no cost to the city for its use. People can also pay with coins or cash directly at the meters or kiosks. Montpelier has transitioned back to coin-operated parking meters in the downtown corridor of Main Street, State Street, Elm Street, School Street, Barre Street, the Jacobs Lot, 60 State Street Lot, Stone Cutters Way, Blanchard Lot, and Pitkin Lot. ParkMobile meters are used at the electric vehicle charging station and are monitored by the police department’s parking division.