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Montclair Council Terminates Parking Authority

The township council created a utility to manage parking operations starting Jan. 1, 2013.

 

The Montclair Parking Authority is no more. 

The township council unanimously voted on Tuesday to dissolve the 10-year-old parking authority. By another unanimous vote, the council created the Montclair Parking Utility which will assume all control of the moribund parking authority starting Jan. 1, 2013. 

Mayor Robert Jackson and the council said the move will help the town’s economic development in the long run. 

“The ordinance -- I believe -- will allow us to move more aggressively some of the economic development goals that we’ve had and articulated since we’ve been in office,” said Jackson, “in terms of parking lots downtown and other municipal property.” 

“I had envisioned the parking authority as a real partner in ... economic development ...,” said Councilor Rick McMahon. 

In an unusual move, the council passed these measures during a conference meeting, where the council has typically only set agenda items for an upcoming regular meeting.

Business Manager Marc Dashield defended the timing of the vote. 

"There is a time constraint here," said Dashield. "I've got a very short time frame to really turn over these operations .... If we are going to transfer to the [utility], January 1 is the perfect date because that is the new budget year."

The movement of parking operations from the now defunct authority to the utility will be a “smooth transition,” said Dashield, and will happen in three phases starting Jan. 1. 

  • Transition all parking operations to the township, such as personnel, equipment and contracts. 
  • Evaluate during the first quarter of 2013 how the township will operate the parking utility in the future. This includes inviting stakeholders and residents in to advise the township about parking policies in order to create, according to Dashield, “the most appropriate organizational structure.” 
  • Implement the final recommendations, which Dashield estimated will happen around March 2013. 

During the transition, the parking in town will “look exactly the same," said Dashield. The current operating structure -- including rates, permits and ticketing -- will remain in place during the evaluation period, he added. 

The council also unanimously voted to create a Parking Enforcement Officer, described as “officers and employees" in the ordiance, which township attorney Ira Karasick said were necessary to “implement the plan.” 

A History of Mismanagement 

The coup de grace for the parking authority comes after years of mismanagement and potentially missing funds, according to reports. 

In October, a report done by former township business administrator Joseph Hartnett and township auditors found the authority in disarray -- suffering from a lack of rules and regulations -- and potentially missing $100,000 in utility bills. 

Soon before that report was released, the state’s Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board voted unanimously to approve the township’s desire to eliminate the authority. 

While the absorption of the parking authority will place control of parking operations in the hands of the township, Councilor Sean Spiller considered the potentially high costs and expectations associated with it. 

“I think the big driving forces behind this was the economic development piece,” said Spiller. “Certainly we are all looking to address the parking issue ... but there are limitations there. 

“Everybody would love to see the newest technology, like new meters, but there is a heavy cost associated with that. I know [the parking authority] was burdened with a lot of debt ... and we are going to be faced with these same challenges.”

Gloria Falzer December 05, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I've known a couple of the members of the parking authority and they could not be more honest and forthright. The parking authority was a stupid idea created by former Manager Hartnett to get the town off the hook for managing the parking lots and taking the heat for years of mismanagement. How ironic that he is now the one studying the authority and accusing them of mismanagement - probably trumped up charges to get the authority killed and get himself a job. The coupe de grace would be if the town then hired him to take over. What a joke!
chris December 05, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Wow! The council really tackling mismanagement and missing funds!!! this is great news -- let's hope it's a harbinger of more to come. And hopefully it translates to the town seeing plenty of increased revenues.
Adam December 05, 2012 at 06:52 PM
There is mismanagement in all corners- on the establishment of the Parking Authority, the running of it and now with dissolving it. This was supposed to be a conference meeting. There are never any links for the substantive items on the agendas. They should have at least televised it since it was in the first floor chambers. Why all the secrecy with this group?
jim December 05, 2012 at 06:53 PM
This move will flop as well.
Joseph David December 05, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Well, it's about time the corrupt MPA has been dissolved. Now it's time for the mayor and council to do the right thing. First thing would be to not nickel and dime the local residents and make daytime parking easier. For residents who live in areas where there is 1 or 2 hour parking, there should be resident permits that allow them to park in front of there own homes without having to move their vehicles every two hours. And these passes should be no more than $5 per year. The resident should be able to show proof of residence and purchase this pass just as easily as one can obtain a pass for overnight parking. And as far as overnight parking is concerned. The no parking rule is solely in place to raise revenue for the town. (Yes many towns in the area employ this as well but it is in place to make money.) Officials will tell you that the no overnight parking law is in effect so that emergency vehicles can comfortably make its way down streets but this is a ruse. I suppose the vehicles have no problem getting down streets the other 21 hours of the day but between 2 and 5 am it is more difficult. Well if that is the case and town officials want to stick to it then they should try a system where cars can only park on one side of the street so that emergency vehicles have room to maneuver. And in certain areas of town, particularly the 4th ward, where there are more multifamily homes and less parking, obtaining long term overnight parking permits should be more affordable.
Cary Africk December 05, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Wrong. Hartnett opposed the creation of the Parking Authority. Cary Africk
sk December 06, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I wish the parking in town wouldn't look the same. I hate that parking lot by Starbucks. Wish it was a nice outdoor courtyard with tables and chairs where we can bring our fro-yos or food, etc. The courtyard in Princeton by the library is so nice and it would be nice if Montclair had something similar in the center of town. It's depressing eating fro-yo facing an ugly asphalt lot.
Cary Africk December 06, 2012 at 05:46 AM
I supported a study of the MPA that took over a year to complete. Nothing was missed. The MPA most certainly was not "corrupt." Could they have done things more efficiently? Absolutely. Were additional controls called for? Yes. Will we solve the problems by dissolving the Authority and creating a Utility reporting into the Town Manager? I don't think that's the proper course of action unless a strong director for the utility is immediately hired and given the authority and responsibility to run an independent organization. I also think the action was precipitous and deserved more in depth thought and planning before taking action.
michael woods December 06, 2012 at 11:43 PM
The Parking Authority was created for one reason only, to bond money for the Township. And when the Township wanted more money, they changed their agreement with the Parking Authority and took more revenue. Then when the bonds were due, the MPA did not have the money to pay for it. No matter what you call it, an Authority or Utility, its the Councils failure.
frank rubacky December 07, 2012 at 12:32 AM
1) from The Mtc Times 7/20/12: "The council has passed two resolutions that will immediately reduce Montclair's $220 million debt by $3.6 million." OK, I read that as the debt is now about $116.4MM. 2) from the first hypelink to Patch's article last week of 12/1/12: "Chief among those concerns was getting Montclair’s approximate $230 million debt paid off, said Jackson." So, the Montclair's debt has grown about $13.6MM in less than 5 months. From the same Mtc Times 7/20/12 article: "He also noted the Parking Authority is about $15 million in debt." All's fair in love and elections.
Mary Ann Cucci December 07, 2012 at 02:43 AM
"In October, a report done by former township business administrator Joseph Hartnett and township auditors found the authority in disarray -- suffering from a lack of rules and regulations -- and potentially missing $100,000 in utility bills." ---Why was former Township Manager Joe Hartnett brought back to do this study? Who hired him? Who is he friends with/connected to on the Council? It does sound like this is a set up for him to come back and be the 'Parking Utility Director'. Many many many Montclair constituents would be very opposed to this appointment. Think twice before making this appointment. It will be a negative and controversial decision.
Cary Africk December 07, 2012 at 12:11 PM
mikew, The Parking Authority was created to focus on parking, specifically the building of the decks. Although an Authority "theoretically" can borrow money, this parking authority didn't so the debt was taken out by the town anyway. FYI, there already IS a parking utility! It's in the budget and the audit. It already WAS created in order to implement payment of debt. Cary
Cary Africk December 07, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Let's separate personality, from competence. It was a good idea to have Hartnett write the short study of the shortfall, which had been found by the auditors, not Joe. The "real" study had already been done by Glenn Rogers. The town is in a pickle. SOMEONE needs to run the parking authority. It cannot be run by the town manager. This Town has a reputation of "getting rid of" the good people while keeping the incompetents. Terry Reidy, the Manager before Joe, was TERRIFIC (and he was also my neighbor!). Gone. Joe, for all the personal animosity, mainly among blog posters, is probably the most competent town manager in the state (our Council interviewed many). I don't think Joe will be offered the parking director job, but if you needed a surgeon for a complex procedure would you hire the guy with the skills who had a 100% success rate but difficulty with a handful of people who didn't like him because of his personality, or the "great guy" who killed people here and there?

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