Hartford parking deal dies in city council

The Connecticut capital’s legislators tabled a measure to request proposals for the city’s parking system, making Hartford the fourth city to see a potential parking deal collapse in city council chambers in the last year. Legislators in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and New Haven have stalled similar deals.

The Hartford City Council opted not to authorise a bidding process for the city’s parking system, making it the fourth city in the last year to see a potential parking deal die in city council chambers.

The Connecticut state capital’s nine-member council last night tabled a proposal to authorise the issuance of a request for proposals for a 50-year lease of the parking system. It was the second time this month the council tabled the idea, meaning the measure is dead for now.

“I have trouble moving forward with something that could be affecting the city 25 years after I’m dead,” City Council President rJo Winch, who voted to table the measure both times, said in an interview.

Winch was uncomfortable with the idea of giving up revenues on city-owned assets for such a long period of time in exchange for upfront cash that would automatically be spent to ease a budget deficit.

Mayor Pedro Segarra had advised city council in a November presentation that a parking concession could be worth between $80 million and $120 million, depending on the terms. At the time of the estimate, the city was facing a $40 million budget deficit, Winch said. Even with more recent budget deficit estimates of $9 million to $12 million, Winch said she is opposed to using a lease to plug the deficit.

“It’s a better idea for us to find a way to decrease our expenses and generate new revenue,” she said, citing revenue-generating ideas like kiosks, billboards and other advertising opportunities on city-owned assets.

Segarra had pitched the concession as an opportunity to fund “transformative” projects using the lease proceeds, such as improving city streetscapes, park improvements, traffic signal synchronisation and others, according to the presentation.

“The mayor respects the decision of council,” Mayoral spokesperson Sarah Barr said in an interview, adding that Mayor Segarra is a proponent of “new ways to explore potential new revenue generators” and “this could be one”.

Early last year Hartford joined a host of cities that were pursuing parking deals when it issued a request for information from potential investors interested in a concession of its downtown parking system consisting of 1,645 on-street metered parking spaces and 4,751 off-street spaces. Seven groups responded to the request and eventually the city qualified four bidding teams.

Hartford’s information request came shortly before Los Angeles City Council authorised the qualification of bidders for its parking garages and was within days followed by the initiation of similar bidding processes in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

A year later, only Indianapolis’ parking deal, a revenue-sharing arrangement with Xerox-owned outsourcing company ACS, has reached financial close. The Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Hartford deals died in their respective city councils’ chambers during various stages of the deals’ pursuits.

A fourth parking deal also stalled in city council chambers when the Board of Aldermen of the City of New Haven opted not to approve a 25-year lease contract on its parking system in March 2010. There are currently no moves before the board to resurrect the measure, according to a legislative aide familiar with the proceedings.

Winch, the Hartford City Council President, added that the parking lease could still be resurrected in a future city council “but at this point we’re not interested in going there”.