Council Passes $2 Million Parking Garage Renovation Ordinance

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Parking garage
Woman gets coins from change machine to pay parking meters in Athens parking garage. Photo credit Ann Jacob.

Athens residents will be paying more to park later this year.

Athens City Council passed anordinance Monday night to renovate the city’s East Washington Street parking garage.

Athens mayor Paul Wiehl said the $2 million in repairs are needed to maintain safety, a need made evident two years ago when concrete fell off the structure.

“There’s a laundry list of things that need to be done,” Wiehl said.

He said time, salt and water erosion have caused the parking garage to deteriorate.  Repairs will be made to the sides of the structure and the drains.  One of the most visible improvements will be the installation of new elevators.

The current elevators were rated to last for 30 years but as of this year they will have been operating 15 years beyond that limit.

Melissa Faris, an Ohio University student uses the parking garage everyday said she doesn’t feel safe when using the elevator.

“They don’t even hit the floor before they open the door,” she said.

Cleo Gold is blind. She finds using elevators helpful but now worries after hearing how outdated they are.

“If they’re 15 years old, I think I’ll walk back up the steps,” she said.

According to Mayor Wiehl, elevator repairs are estimated to take about $300,000 to $400,000 to repair.

In addition, parking rates will increase to help offset the restoration.

Meters rates will increase from 50 cents to 75 cents per hour while reserved parking will jump to $125 a month, a $40 per-month increase. The new rates will go into effect May 1st, 2015.

Faris said she isn’t happy to hear this news.

“I think it’s kind of stupid,” she said. “The city meters are 50 cents an hour – I use this almost everyday for an hour and a half.”

“That’s a big increase when you add it all up.”

Gold, who was going to the city building to challenge her property taxes seemed to have given up.

“They raise the money on my taxes, they raise the money on my groceries, why not on parking fees,” she said.

Kent Taylor uses the garage daily. He said some repairs would be nice but doesn’t see the need for a $2 million renovation and a price hike when the facility seems to be working smoothly.

“Hopefully they’ll bring the price back down [after the renovations are complete],” he said.

In 2007, the city dropped parking rates from 65 cents to 50 cents an hour.

Looking back, Wiehl said they should have kept rates at 65 cents in order to have been better prepared for the repairs.

“We’ll pay off the bills, but we also have to look at the cash flow and unexpected contingencies,” he said.

2001 is the last time the city raised prices for both street parking and the parking garage.