New parking lot too pricey: Council
The council also told staff to take up Mercy Options on its offer to move 17 of its leased spots to the plaza across Court Street.
Councilman Yuri Rashkin was absent.
Staff also will look into creating parking by converting St. Lawrence Avenue and Water Street to one-way.
Don Allison, senior center president, said seniors prefer the option to buy the former jail site and creating 90 parking spaces at a cost of $22,000 each.
The parking would support other development in the area, Allison said. It also would assure that the center would not outgrow its site.
The senior population is increasing along with it program demand, Allison believes. Parking is at a premium, he said.
" ...When that land is gone, our options are gone," he said after the meeting.
Councilman George Brunner, who suggested designating the public lot as a senior-only lot, said the city already subsidizes the senior center at $190,000 a year.
"In these tough economic times, I just can't see how we can afford to spend $440,000 to create parking spaces," he said.
Some council members questioned exactly how much parking was needed. The seniors say they need about 20 spots, but staff said a study shows that adequate space already exists within 450 feet of the senior center.
"I don't think we really know how much parking you need," council member Kathy Voskuil said.
She suggested the center look into shifting programming to decrease pressure at peak times.
Council member Tom McDonald, whose law office is near the senior center, said he has kept an eye on the parking for a year.
He said he can recall Water Street being filled only two times, and that was because of construction last summer.
The city could buy the former jail lot or it could put more spots on Water Street, he said. "But those spaces are no closer than the spaces they (seniors) don't use already," he said.
The problem isn't a lack of space—"It's a lack of space closest to the building," he said.
McDonald suggested that seniors mobile enough should park farther away and leave the closer spots to those who need them.
He admitted that thinking is contrary to the American way, where people loop around a parking lot to get closer to their health club.
Council members Russ Steeber and Bill Truman were the only two council members who seemed inclined to spend any money. Steeber made a motion that included directing staff to investigate converting St. Lawrence into one-way street going west and Water one-way going south to add about 25 spaces.
"I think there are options that... (aren't) going to cost the city an arm and a leg," Steeber said. "The seniors (using) this are deserving, and we owe it to them for what they have done (for) the community."
Truman agreed, noting money councils have spent on the performing arts center, youth baseball and now possibly $200,000 to remodel the ice rink. The parking in Steeber's motion would cost slightly more than $100,000—"a small token of appreciation of what (seniors) have done."
Seniors have asked for more parking before, Truman said.
"We need to pursue this and keep moving forward," he said.
The council approved Steeber's motion directing staff to investigate converting the streets to one-way. Spending money to convert the streets would require another vote.