|Council chairman Andrew Touma has a plan in case you don't pay a parking ticket.
Well before the election season, the Niagara Falls Reporter predicted that a citywide parking plan, on which the Dyster administration has already wasted $112,330 on, would be resurrected should the mayor manage to get reelected.
Dyster was put back in office by fewer than 50 percent of the voters who turned out for the three-way race that saw him defeat write-in candidate Glenn Choolokian and Republican John Accardo, and now the moribund parking plan has been resurrected.
We must be psychic!
“Between now and the new year we’ll be voting on parking stations,” city Council Chairman Andrew Touma said last week. “Not only that, but I think it’s important that we look into the boot system as well.”
Dyster hired the Chicago based Desman Associates to launch a study of the city’s alleged “parking problem” and come up with a solution as though money were no object, since Dyster planned on paying for the scheme with revenue derived from the dwindling local share of the slot machine revenue at the Seneca Niagara Casino.
Back in October of 2013, Desman Associates billed the city a whopping $45,000 for a 22-page report that didn't contain 5,000 words of text that recommended that they, Desman Associates, be permitted to implement the new parking program.
The study was long on cost, but short on details. As it stands now, what Desman calls “Phase I” of the project will see meters installed on Niagara Street and Rainbow Boulevard downtown, along with cross streets linking the two.
In May of this year, the city Council rejected the Dyster administration’s recommendation to authorize a $258,950 contract with Ber-National Automation, Inc., a company that won a bid to install about 40 meters in the city’s tourism district.
Each meter would cover approximately seven to 12 individual parking places.
According to Desman’s own numbers, Phase I of the plan would cost around $900,000 to put in place, along with another $100,000 annually to run.
Expected revenue might be as much as $80,000 a year after expenses.
There is no indication whatsoever that 40 meters will turn a profit for the city after the consultants and the company that manages the meters are paid.
The mayor's proposal, which has been estimated to cost in excess of $900,000 to implement, would involve the establishment of a "department of parking" here, the hiring of new personnel to man it, and increased enforcement of local parking codes.
“There’s a lot of people that think, day-to-day, we can manage it ourselves,” Touma said.
Dyster was more specific about the need for new city personnel to man the program.
“We can’t just tell people, ‘In your spare time run a parking program,’” Dyster said. “We have to make sure we have the people available with the right skill set to pull this off.”
And enforcement is an entirely different matter, the mayor added.
“I want to be careful not to have a police officer who could be fighting crime elsewhere walking and writing tickets,” he added.
One of the most successful parking lot operations the city has seen in recent years was devised and run by Reporter Publisher Frank Parlato, when he owned the One Niagara complex at the corner of Niagara Street and Rainbow Boulevard North. To think that he might be tapped by the Dyster administration as the city’s first parking czar strains credulity, however.
More likely, any new hires will be scooped from the pond scum of those who helped Dyster achieve victory in the in the 2015 election despite receiving only 47 percent of the vote.
This “friends and family approach” was used successfully in the hiring of gabage czarBrooke D'Angelo, and a Democratic committeewoman and virulent Dyster supporter who helped orchestrate the smear campaign that drove formerly popular city Councilman Sam Fruscione from office in 2013.
In what was supposed to be a temporary job when Dyster first announced it, the position was made permanent. She's currently costing city taxpayers $48,000 a year in wages and benefits.
Despite the fact that metered parking is common in municipalities large and small all across this great land of ours, making it work in Niagara Falls has always seemed like an impossible dream.
Former Mayor Irene Elia and former Mayor Vince Anello each had their own pet parking schemes, cooked up by consultants and paid for by those unfortunate enough to own property in the city of Niagara Falls. Neither of those ended up going anywhere, and the new one isn't likely to either, but Dyster seems bound, set and determined to have his own failed parking plan.
Dyster’s proposal, which has already cost taxpayers dearly, is not in any significant way different than the parking plans proposed by former Elia or Anello, which resulted in the waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, ripped up sidewalks and parking meter poles that never had any meters installed on top of them.
“This is low hanging fruit as far as available revenue,” Dyster said.
What revenue? Spending more than a million dollars to make around $80,000 a year after expenses. Only men such as Dyster and Touma, who have never run a successful business or provided a single private sector job in their lives, would think the plan had any merit.
City councilman Robert Anderson who lost his seat in the recent election, said metered parking will hurt business downtown and anywhere else it is put in place.
“There is no demand in the winter for downtown parking,” he said. “It could be a deterrent to business in winter. Think about it. Suppose you are thinking about meeting a friend at Starbucks in January. You can go downtown and pay $3 each to park for two hours or you can go to Starbucks in LaSalle and park for free. So which are you going to choose?”
And while Dyster is telling anyone who will listen that metered parking will extend north of Niagara Street, why has Desman Associates labeled that portion of the Project as Phase I? Wouldn’t Phase I quite naturally be followed by Phase II?
The numbers just don’t add up. If, as Dyster and Touma contend, metered parking represents an answered prayer insofar as creating a new revenue stream for the nearly bankrupt city is concerned, are they really going to be happy with a paltry $80,000 a year, about enough to pay the salary and benefit package for one city policeman?
Still Touma is insisting that the new program will not target local residents. Unless it is decided it should.
“Our residents are paying local taxes they shouldn’t have to pay the rate others pay to park here,” Touma said. “Although, we have to weigh all our options.”
We wouldn’t trust either Touma or Dyster to run a game of three card monte. In their wisdom, a plurality of Niagara Falls voters decided to trust them with running a $100 million corporation.
You get what you pay for.