March 7, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
The Hartford city council postponed a decision Tuesday over the fate of a downtown parking lot that has become the center of a political tempest for Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
Perez had asked the council to consider a proposal from the city's parking authority to take over and re-bid the management contract for the city-owned lot. But the council shied away from a quick decision Tuesday, instead asking the city's parking officials to clarify cost and revenue estimates included in the authority's proposal.
The mayor has faced intense political pressure to terminate a no-bid contract that he gave to Abraham L. Giles, a political power broker in the city' s North End, to operate a parking lot at 1214 Main St. The deal was signed by Perez and Giles on Nov. 1, 2006, despite the city's own parking authority's expressing interest in the lot to officials in the mayor's office months earlier.
For the right to manage the 225-space lot, Giles pays the city $12,000 a year in rent. The city can end the 18-month deal on 30 days' notice.
Specifically, council members Tuesday focused on the $35,000 that parking officials say would be the estimated income from the lot and the nearly $350,000 needed to make the lot safe, secure and clean. The lot has broken fences, lights and guardrails as well as debris.
To recoup the cleanup money, the city would need to operate the lot for 10 years, city council President John Bazzano said Tuesday. Given that the city is aiming to redevelop the property and could find a private developer for that purpose at any time, Bazzano said the prospect of spending too much money on the lot now made him a bit uneasy.
"It is hard for me to say we are going to spend $350,000 of the city's money and in a matter of months have to tear that lot up," he said. "I'm struggling with that. Is there anything we can do to reduce that to the bare minimum? To bare bones?"
James Kopencey, the executive director of the city's parking authority, agreed to provide by next week a more detailed breakdown of the expenses and estimated revenues expected on the lot. Also, saying he understood $350,000 was a lot to spend, Kopencey offered to come up with two other more economical scenarios for preparing the lot - one for $150,000, another for $250,000.
The city's economic development and planning officials are aggressively trying to market the property for redevelopment, in connection with nearby city-owned parcels. But they say there are no current discussions with private buyers.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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