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[POLL]Should The Montclair Parking Authority Be Dissolved?

The township council would like to have more control over parking matters.

 

Among other issues, the Township Council will tackle one particularly contentious matter at its meeting Tuesday evening: the dismantling of the Montclair Parking Authority.

In a preliminary vote, the council already voted to dissolve the entity at a meeting last month.

But the idea must be approved by the state and can't be finalized without a public hearing.

In January, the board of the Montclair Parking Authority—which has been unable to meet its financial obligations— to enter into a new contract with the township.

At the time, then-Mayor Jerry Fried said he was confident that the new agreement would pave the way for improved parking services and accountability.

"Almost all [township] council members believe that having a separate authority is a benefit to the township and we will continue this structure," he said at the time.

But now Robert Jackson is mayor and he appears to have his own ideas.

"The Mayor does say he has a plan ... so we'll just have to see what that plan is, and how it plays out," said former Councilor Cary Africk. "He seems to be very confident, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt."

Africk, who has spent considerable time studying the Montclair Parking Authority, said that the problem isn't the current form.

"An authority is fine. A utility poses problems, one of which is that it would report to the town manager and he certainly doesn't need more work and responsibility," he said.

But Africk agrees with the new council that a change is needed.

"Do people realize that our Parking Authority not only outsources the operation, but also has a parking consultant on board?," he said. "Each of these steps adds costs. And the infrastructure needs attention, and money. There have been few capital improvements. There needs to be more."

As it stands, the Montclair Parking Authority is in charge of the town's public parking lots, parking meters, parking permits, parking decks, and the enforcement of parking rules.

Under the new council's proposal, the council and township manager would take charge of all parking matters including the development of parking lots.

A parking utility would be set up to oversee parking, parking lots, and parking meters.

For years,all sorts of concerns related to the Montclair Parking Authority's handling of parking issues.

Do you think the Montclair Parking Authority should be dissolved? Let us know in the comments section below and vote in our poll. 

Peter Zorich August 06, 2012 at 12:29 PM
The Parking Authority simply took on too much debt (that we are all responsible for for) to build a bunch of decks.. some of which sit half empty. I agree the parking decks surround valuable land that could offer development opportunities that we need to exploit. But those opportunities will take time. We should be outsourcing to a company that actually knows how to make money on parking services .. not continues to lose it. Does anyone think a town run utility is going to work?
Shelley Emling (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Good question.
AC August 06, 2012 at 02:51 PM
This is so distressing! When the Parking authority was implemented some 5 or 6yrs ago we were told that it would be financially solvent and was being implemented because the clerks office could no longer manage the responsibliity. Our fees were doubled at that time from $300 per year to $600 per year (and now we are at $720 per year). In spite of the outrage of the public we were told that this increase was to pay for the Bay street parking lot, crescent deck and the then proposed deck at Montclair State. Now we learn that all of that was a huge "untruth". So my question is...where did the money go? And are they going to need to hire additional township staff inorder to manage this or will this be given back to the township clerks office? Quite frankly at this point I'm not sure that outsourcing is the answer. I could care less if they make money, how about they just manage the money they have so that we don't end up once again paying for their incompetence. .
Shelley Emling (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Will definitely find out more tomorrow night..
Butterfly August 06, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I feel its the wrong question. The question should be if we want an efficient and cost effective administration of the parking. Whether its an utility or an authority is only of secondary importance. Accountability and responsibility needs to be clearly defined and should be in the center here as to why the authority did not work out. Just flip flopping between two different forms of administration without establishing clear metrics and lines of responsibility/accountability seems unproductive.
Getting taxed right out of Montclair! August 06, 2012 at 04:59 PM
When they town handled the permits, we paid $300 a year . Two ladies in town hall handled all of it. They were great. Then comes the parking authority with large salaries, top heavy with 'executives', and we now have had two raises since. One automatically doubled the cost to $600.00 and just a few months ago, the authority felt the need to increase to $720.00 a year. Seems to me that the two young ladies, at Borough Hall, did a better, more economical job before the Authority was put in place. This is just one more reason why my name states my issue with this town.
Shelley Emling (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Good points..
Relish Relish August 06, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Income is scarce right now. The private sector in a thirst for yield will overpay for these assets. Sell them at the top, with fixed regulated rates in the agreement, and pay off the debt.
Shelley Emling (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 10:33 PM
We will see what the council has to say on this tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
Denise August 06, 2012 at 10:46 PM
It's obviously not working the way it's set up now. So I say go back to the way it was since from comments from people who were in town at that time, it appears to have worked and was more affordable for residents.
michael woods August 07, 2012 at 01:38 AM
The questions should be, why did the MPA fail? And the question was answered correctly, they borrowed too much money and was unable to pay it back. The blame is on the two former mayor and council and the Town Manager. Switching it to an Utility has nothing to do with control, as they council had control of the MPA from day one. Although I feel the MPA was needed for the township, others sought it as a cash cow to help with the budget short fall. The MPA bonded to pay the town to lease the lots and build the two parking structures. They also took a percentage from all the meters as well. They also changed their agreement with the MPA to get more revenue from them. So the town had plenty control over the MPA, that is suppose to run as an independant authority from the Township When I sat in a meeting and the former director said they can get $100 a momth for a permit spot, I knew they were headed for trouble. The new Utility will be able to take over the bond debt, and the town will control the rates for parking. Nothing will change at all. Let me ask everyone this question. Who will purchase a day time permit in a Montclair Center lot? Well, not being the smartest guy out there, I would say employees and owners of the local businesses, and maybe a few residents who have not parking and who do not work during the day. So, do you think a waitress will pay $720 a year (or $100 a month they predicted) to park or you think they will move there car every two hours?
Jeff Jacobson August 07, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Everyone seems to agree that massive change is needed. If Mayor Jackson prefers to execute that change by dissolving the Authority and assuming personal control (through the Town Manager), rather than reforming the Authority, that's a right he won when he handlly won the election. Done right, we can improve the parking situation in Montclair, clear the backlog of Montclair residents who have waited years for commuter spaces and generate needed revenues to pay down debt. So let's work together to achieve those goals rather than worry too much about what we call the thing that manages Montclair's parking.
Adam August 07, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Accountability is lacking. There should be reviews in the dept/utility/authority of revenue by lot, per month at a minimum. There are parking lots in town that the PA is known to not ticket. The businesses "have a deal with the PA that they don't ticket the Meter spots", as I was told by one such business when trying out a new yogurt spot. I watched the lot & sure enough, people parked all day without putting $ in the meters & no tickets were given. Just another deal like the principal's children getting verbal approval to attend Montclair's schools. Lack of accountability & tone from the top to respect taxpayers money is sorely needed in this town. I'd like to see the new councilors require accountability whether they turn this into a utility or not. Accountability will be key if and when they start any development. We've seen a lot of excess spent on town approved development over the years.
michael woods August 07, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I am willing to see what the new administration can do, as we don't have much of a choice. No matter how you look at it, the taxpayers will be responsible for paying the debt, no matter what its called. But safe guards need to be in place to assure this does not happen again. We need to learn from were we went wrong, change and go forward. Unlike Jeff, I feel the proper management model is important. I'm not sure if all this mess occurred under his watch as a MPA commissioner or not, but everyone needs to take responsibility for this financial mess, including the residents who can voice there concerns at council and board meetings. Hopefully this is a new start with the newly elected officials
A. Gideon August 08, 2012 at 01:36 AM
"Done right, we can improve the parking situation in Montclair, clear the backlog of Montclair residents who have waited years for commuter spaces and generate needed revenues to pay down debt." Wouldn't achievement of these goals require more parking spaces? How can that be achieved w/o incurring more debt? ...Andrew
A. Gideon August 08, 2012 at 01:41 AM
"But safe guards need to be in place to assure this does not happen again. We need to learn from were we went wrong, change and go forward." I agree. People write above of the MPA taking on too much debt. How was that possible? Was there no plan for repayment? That seems unlikely. So why was the planned budget so far off from reality? Though I imagine the details differ, this sounds a lot like the planning fiasco of the Park Street construction. I believe that the new school also ended up losing features (eg. the pool also available to the neighborhood) as "unexpected" costs grew. How many times can we be surprised by the same event? ...Andrew

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