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Published: Friday, 4/29/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Port authority closer to buying city meters, 3 parking garages

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Long-running discussions about the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority taking over the city of Toledo's parking meters and garages have moved closer to reality with a resolution the port authority's board of directors approved Thursday  morning.

The board's bond inducement resolution formally declares that the agency is considering issuing $6 million in bonds and borrowing $12 million from the Ohio Infrastructure Bank to buy the city's three parking garages and take over management of on-street parking operations.

Opie Rollison, the port board's chairman, said a parking deal has the potential to generate revenue streams for both the city and the port authority without increasing either parking rates or fines for meter violations. Port authority debt, he said as an example, would be cheaper than servicing $4.5 million city bonds outstanding on the Superior Street Garage.

"This would be a benefit to the community, providing income to the city, while maintaining an asset in control of the community," Mr. Rollison said following the 11-0 vote, with board members Lloyd Jacobs and Brian Bucher absent.

The port authority's resolution is the first of two it must pass to approve a bond issue. A staff report indicated the second resolution, actually approving bond issuance, might be on the directors' May 26 meeting agenda.

"This is just the inducement. We've got a lot of analysis and work to do, and things to negotiate," port President Paul Toth told agency directors before the vote.

Earlier this month, City Council approved paying Fifth Third Securities for "financial advisory services" needed "to properly evaluate the city's options" in selling or leasing its parking facilities.

And Mr. Toth said Thursday that even the value of Toledo's parking garages is open to debate. The $18 million figure for what the port authority might borrow to buy them and assume control of metered parking is merely a high-end estimate, he said.

The garages and on-street parking now are managed for the city by the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, a non-profit organization created by Downtown ToledoVision Inc., and the city in 1995 for that purpose. It is managed by a 13-member board of trustees comprised of representatives from downtown Toledo businesses and nonprofits, Toledo City Council, and the city administration.

In 2008, the parking authority itself offered to buy the three garages and lease city parking meters for 50 years for $16.5 million but was turned down by the Finkbeiner administration, which at the time was shopping the parking garages and other city assets in search of cash to shore up Toledo's bleeding budget. The parking authority had planned to use port financing had its offer been accepted.

At that time, Mr. Toth said Thursday, the city was leaning toward selling or leasing its parking facilities to private-sector operators. Transferring them instead to another public operator, such as the port authority, would ensure downtown parking remained "a public utility," not a cash cow for an outside party, he said.

"It would be a partnership with the city, rather than a pure acquisition," the port president said, noting that the port authority's plan does not envision any changes in parking fees or violation fines.

Mr. Toth also said while the port authority likely would retain the parking authority initially as a facilities manager, it would not be obliged to keep that arrangement if more efficient options were identified.

Clayton Johnston, the parking authority's executive director, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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