Paid-parking plan perturbs

       The free parking lots in Old Colorado City appear unlikely to become un-free, based on criticism of the concept by three members of the area's Security & Maintenance District Advisory Committee at the meeting April 13.
       The comments from Ginny Wesley, Mary Purinsh and Cretee Nemmer followed a presentation to the board by Greg Warnke, the city's parking administrator. They were among the four board members at the meeting. Although the fourth, Ruby Reed, did not speak in opposition, she did not urge approval of parking meters, either. An absent committee member, Bill Grimes, helped form the district 26 years ago - an effort that was spurred in large part to keep the city from putting in paid lots.
       As a tangent from the paid-parking question, committee members were intrigued by figures that Warnke provided at the meeting, indicating that the city's net revenues from the 137 on-street parking meters in Old Colorado City for 2004 amounted to $26,870 (after deducting city costs for administration, maintenance and enforcement). The district board, which looks out for the public amenities in the business area around Colorado Avenue between 24th and 27th streets, has long wondered out loud how much money the city makes from that source - and how much comes back to Old Colorado City.
       Contacted after the meeting, Warnke said the revenue from the parking meters was never intended as a way “to give them money back.” The meters, he said, “are there for one reason: to control traffic on the street. If you don't have meters, you have employees parking there.”
       He said the city does provide some ongoing benefits to Old Colorado City, including trash collection and lot restriping. Ad- ditionally, he pointed out that the city in recent years provided another parking lot (with meters, located just outside the Mainten- ance District) at 26th and Cucharras streets.
       Warnke said the earnings from Old Colorado City's meters go into the city's parking enterprise fund, which is used to pay for citywide operating costs related to parking.
       Until the electric meters were put in over a year ago, it had not been easily possible to figure how much money came from given meters, he noted, so this is the first time the net revenue from the Old Colorado City area has ever been tabulated.
       Wesley and Nemmer believe that a switch to paid lots would worsen an Old Colorado City economy that is not strong now. “It would be demoralizing,” Wesley said.
       “I'd vote against it,” Purinsh said, adding that if the lots had meters, “People wouldn't come.”
       The possibility of paid parking had arisen at the board's March meeting, with members asking Warnke to come back with details. One of the board ideas had been for gated lots, instead of meters. But at the April 13 meeting, he said that idea wouldn't work because of access complications related to the lots being next to alleys.
       For meters, there would be an up-front installation cost to the district of $250 a meter, Warnke said. He added that he was not trying to sell the district on the idea of paid parking, which would likely mean that the lots would transfer from district to city control. “If I was asked if I want those lots back, I'd say probably not,” Warnke said. “If they want free parking for their customers, that's fine.”
       Regarding the 26th and Cucharras lot, according to Warnke, it cost $89,000 to buy the property, $38,000 to design the lot and $70,000 to build it. The price there is 25 cents an hour - half of what the metered on-street parking costs. However, board members noted, hardly anyone ever parks there except during big events.

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