Parking Services has a good fiscal year

September 16, 2011
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Despite a higher debt load and a fairly hefty payment to the city, Grand Rapids Parking Services had a decent financial year. The department posted a $3 million operational surplus for its recent fiscal year.

Parking Services collected operating revenues of $11.4 million for the year, which ended June 30, and spent $8.4 million on operations for its $3 million margin. That surplus was nearly $500,000 higher than a year earlier when the department’s debt service was $400,000 lower and it didn’t have to make a $563,000 payment to the city for the Government Center ramp, as it did this year.

When the non-operational revenue and expense numbers are thrown into the equation, Parking Services still cleared $877,000 for the fiscal year.

“We have just under $8 million available that we can spend,” said Pam Ritsema, who directs the city’s Enterprise Division.

“There isn’t a need right now because development is down,” said Lisa Haynes, chairwoman of the city’s Parking Commission. “But that could change and I hope it does.”

The situation changed slightly at the commission’s last meeting when commissioners agreed to contribute $200,000 to the capital campaign to make upgrades to the Fulton Street Farmers Market at Fulton and Fuller Avenue NE. The market is managed by the Midtown Neighborhood Association and is located on a city-owned parking lot.

The association’s Christine Helms-Maletic told commissioners that Midtown pays the city $6,000 a year to rent the site. Ritsema told commissioners that the department can fund the development because part of its mission is to support economic development in the city, and state law allows Parking Services to make the investment.

“We have a development agreement with the city,” said Helms-Maletic. She added that the city will allow Midtown to manage the improved market for $1 a year for 20 years.

The market’s capital campaign began in July with a goal of $2.6 million. Helms-Maletic said she expects that $2 million of that will come from private donations and the remaining $600,000 will come from the city. So far, her projection seems to ring true. The city’s water and sewer departments, both part of the Enterprise Division, have pledged $200,000 to the campaign, which matches the contribution from Parking Services and brings the city’s total donation to $400,000.

Attorney Jack Hoffman, who is the campaign’s legal counsel and a former Parking Commission chairman, said the city’s economic development director, Kara Wood, has a $200,000 grant the city received from the Environmental Protection Association that could be awarded to the market project and would meet the campaign’s goal of getting $600,000 from the city.

“We will talk with Kara. Kara and Pam feel that grant applies for what we want to do,” said Hoffman.

“You have your money,” said Haynes.

Helms-Maletic said work on the project is slated to begin in November and be completed by May. She said the retaining wall on the Fuller Street side needs to be shored up and stormwater retention work needs to be done on the site. A 2,000-square-foot building will go up near the Fulton Street entrance. “It’s still going to be an open-air market,” said Helms-Maletic.

Lott3Metz Architecture, Nederveld Associates and Rockford Construction are working on the project, which grew out of a 2008 feasibility study conducted by Project for Public Spaces.

Helms-Maletic said those who regularly shop at the market spend about $8 million annually with businesses and restaurants in the district, and 183 donors have contributed to the capital campaign so far.

“It’s in the city’s best interest that the project is successful,” said Andy Guy, parking commissioner. “I would argue that it’s also in Parking’s best interest that the project is successful.”

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