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Council Divided Over Fee Increase At Downtown Garage

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The cost of parking in Fort Worth’s cultural district is going up. Now, the question is when and by how much?

Paying the bonds for the new parking garage, west of the Will Rogers complex, is causing a $300,000 deficit in the parking budget and the cost is expected to double in the next two years.

Mayor Betsy Price says the increase is unavoidable. “The rates are gonna have to go up,” she said. “The council agreed several years ago when the garage was built to sell the debt, to sell the bonds, and the citizens were told at that time that it would be a step up, we’d start at $5 and then escalate up to $8.”

The issue brings sharp division as the Fort Worth City Council looks at plans to boost the parking fee.

“I have to admit I’m disappointed,” said council member Joel Burns, who is critical of the plan. “I think that your plan so far, as yet, as it’s been presented is inadequate.”

Burns says the report is lacking in numbers on attendance at nearby venues. “I feel like you’re just marching on forward with the plan ‘as is’ and we’re gonna gloss it up as best we can. And I’m disappointed by that,” he said.

City Public Events Director Kirk Slaughter says the deficit will only get worse if parking fees aren’t boosted.

“With the debt service going up in increments, that the fee for parking would go up in increments as well to make sure that we’re covering operating and debt services,” he said.

According to Slaughter, the city wants to install equipment allowing drivers to pay based on how long they are parked, instead of a flat fee. “Take a ticket on the way in, then on the way out they would pay only for the amount of time that they’re in the complex.”

Mayor Price says the rate increase will prevent the need to take cash from other areas to pay the bonds. “Nobody likes it. We’ve always had free parking there, but we can’t take from our capitol fund to pay this debt, if we do we’re going to be shorting citizens on their street repairs.”

The proposal wouldn’t boost the parking rate until 2013.

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