- Freezing rain
CINCINNATI - Although the Port Authority wasn’t supposed to meet again until September, it will hold special sessions this week to meet with neighborhood leaders to discuss their concerns about the agency’s controversial parking lease with the city of Cincinnati.
The first meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at Knox Presbyterian Church in Hyde Park. Members of the Hyde Park Community Council with meet with Port Authority staffers to discuss proposed changes to on-street parking at meters.
Another meeting will be held at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Port Authority’s offices on Sixth Street downtown.
A third meeting may also be scheduled soon, said Gail Paul, a Port Authority spokeswoman.
Although the meetings are open to the public, there won't be any segment set aside to receive public comment. Instead, the sessions will focus on neighborhood input.
“The Port Authority asked community council presidents and business district presidents from several neighborhoods most affected by a change in on-street parking to tell us very specific and localized information regarding their respective on-street parking environments,” Paul said.
“This is fact-finding,” she added. “We will not be conducting business (or) making decisions.”
The Port Authority signed a lease with Cincinnati June 21 to assume management of city-owned parking lots, garages and meters. It has 75 days to finalize the deal’s details or back out, if it chooses.
Under the deal, Cincinnati will receive an upfront payment of $92 million from the Port Authority once the lease is fully implemented.
Also, the city would get annual payments that would begin at $3 million and gradually increase over time.
Lease supporters have said the deal will give the city much-needed cash to quicken several development projects that will help expand the city’s tax base.
Opponents, however, said the lease would cause rate increases and aggressive enforcement that might drive away customers from small businesses.
Port Authority staffers currently are negotiating the specific terms of the lease with the private contractors who would oversee daily operations. They have a Sept. 4 deadline to sign or back out of the deal.
Xerox Corp. would manage the meters for a 30-year period, while Denison Parking would manage lots and garages for up to 50 years.
Tom Williams, president of North American Properties and a Port Authority Board member, said changes are likely to management contracts with vendors who would operate city parking assets once the parking lease is finalized:
"I expect the port will recommend some adjustments to the contracts so that they are reasonable and favorable to our local community," Williams said.
"It’ll be up to the city to decide what to do when we’re finished," Williams added.
Port Authority CEO Laura Brunner said she doesn't expect big enough changes to require another vote by City Council.
"Whatever we change in pricing Xerox does not change the lease," Brunner said.
“We're just in the process now of reaching out to some community leaders, getting their input,” she added. “We won't have engineering studies until the end of August. But whatever the results of that are can be compensated for in the bond documents, in the amount of money we raise. It was always contemplated that after we signed the lease we would be negotiating those contracts."
In today’s dollars, the lease of city-owned parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority is estimated to have a value of $475 million.
A New York-based financial consultant hired by the city said Cincinnati would get $197.4 million – or 41 percent of its current market value – from the deal.
WCPO Digital Reporter Dan Monk contributed to this article.
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