Sunday parking fees surface during Aspen budget talks
October 4, 2011
ASPEN – The idea of charging for parking on Sundays surfaced during Monday’s Aspen City Council work session on the 2012 budget.
Currently, the city takes in money for parking at meters and pay stations Mondays through Saturdays. The Parking Department also generates revenue on those days by writing tickets for parking violations and, occasionally, towing vehicles for multiple unpaid tickets and other infractions.
The city of Aspen’s assistant finance director, Ashley Ernemann, estimated that charging for parking on Sundays could generate an extra $105,000 annually. “There’s $35,000 from people who choose to pay and another $70,000 from people who get tickets because they don’t pay, because that’s the way it works on Saturdays,” she said.
The extra 10 percent in parking revenue could go toward subsidizing much-needed projects and programs, such as the Rio Grande Parking Garage roof replacement and support for in-town bus service, city officials said.
Councilman Adam Frisch asked whether charging for parking on Sundays is becoming standard practice in resort cities like Aspen. Ernemann said Snowmass Village charges for Sunday parking; Aspen parking director Tim Ware said Breckenridge and Vail also charge on Sundays.
But Councilman Derek Johnson said destination resorts like Aspen usually have a lot of tourist turnover on weekends: “I think most people coming up on Sunday are locals” who live just outside of Aspen or downvalley, he said.
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Frisch said the idea “doesn’t sit well with me right now” and that he needed to see more information.
Added Johnson: “I’m not wild about charging on Sundays.”
Mayor Mick Ireland recommended handling the discussion in a separate work session to include the parking garage roof replacement and bus transportation.
“We can’t talk about these things in a vacuum,” he said. “Fees should be done in the context of why we’re raising them and what the need for them is. The need for them is either to repair the garage or [support] the crosstown shuttles. Because we get this commentary that we’re just increasing fees so we can somehow grab the money and do something with it that’s uncontrolled.”
He later added, “I don’t want to raise fees more than I have to.”
The discussion also led to the topic of three years of overcharges by the paid-parking system. Because of a software error, pay stations were accepting cash and credit-card transactions after 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The meters are only supposed to work between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on those days.
The software worked correctly on Sundays and holidays, refusing payments. Officials say they don’t know how much the city collected during the weekday and Saturday off-hours. Ware told council members and Ireland that the problem was corrected recently.
The next council work session on the 2012 budget is set for Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. The 2012 municipal budget features a projected 5.6 percent increase in operating costs, but plans are subject to change before the council moves to adopt the budget later this fall.
Operating costs represent the basic tab for conducting business in each department. In operations, the budget totals $50.1 million, or $2.6 million more than the $47.5 million used to run the city last year.
Last week’s version of the budget proposed an increase of four employees, three of whom would hold full-time jobs, including administrative assistants in the Human Resources and Community Development departments, a project manager for the Engineering Department and an administrative sergeant for the police.
On Monday, Police Chief Richard Pryor withdrew his request for the full-time administrative sergeant, saying that a federal grant that would have helped fund the position has not been approved.