Aspen council mulls parking fee increase |

Aspen council mulls parking fee increase

Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins questioned the need to raise parking rates by 50 cents Monday evening during a work session that kicked off the city’s monthlong budget discussion.

Mullins remarked that in light of the recent parking scandal that has cost the city as much as $600,000 in lost revenue since 2010, the city needs to think about whether a fee hike is the right move. Assistant Finance Director Pete Strecker informed the council that the Parking Department is considering a 50-cent increase for the first hour of downtown parking.

“I’m just wondering if this is the time to increase parking with everything that’s going on with the meters in town,” Mullins said. “I would have a hard time defending that, trying to explain what’s been going on the last four years.”

Councilman Adam Frisch said he appreciated the comment and asked if the move is because of a philosophy that previous councils have supported or because more revenue is needed for the new $600,000, 81-meter parking system that was recently approved by the council.

Assistant City Manager Randy Ready contended that the fees are meant to encourage people not to drive to Aspen. He said that the department does not want to create one- and two-dollar fee hikes every few years; instead, the goal is gradual increases.

“As people make their choices for how to commute, whether it’s carpool, bus, walk, bike, etc., parking fees are intended to keep up with the pace of inflation, to outpace the cost of bus fare so that it helps people to make the decision to get on the bus or carpool or do something other than drive.”

Mullins responded that with the parking-meter situation, which resulted in the reassignment of Parking Director Tim Ware, “I think we need to really think hard” about this.

In 2015, the city is looking at an operating budget of $59.5 million, a 6.5 percent increase from 2014, based on projections from the Finance Department.

As proposed, city employees could see merit-based pay increases of as much as 4 percent, which is identical to last year. Salary ranges also are expected to increase by an average of 2.9 percent to “reflect market changes.”

With the city of Aspen and Pitkin County splitting into two information-technology departments, the city side of operations is looking at staffing reductions of $381,000, resulting in the termination of 3.75 full-time positions.

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