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Port authority board approves pact on downtown parking sites

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority will keep the current management for downtown Toledo's parking garages and metered parking spaces for at least the first three months of 2012 after it buys the garages from the city on Jan. 1.

The port authority's board of directors Thursday approved a management agreement with Downtown Toledo Development Corp. for the parking facilities. The agreement will automatically renew after each three-month period unless either party gives a termination notice. The port authority may cancel the agreement with 30 days' notice at any time.

The board approved as well a modified lease with the City of Toledo for the Maritime Center property that will expand its leasehold to include neighboring land that is to be developed as a maritime-themed park, including a new slip for the S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker museum ship.

The port authority agreed earlier this year to buy the Vistula, Port Lawrence, and Superior parking garages from the city for $12.4 million, and also to take over operation of parking meters downtown.

The port is financing the garage purchases with the proceeds from two bond issues totaling $14.4 million that, according to agency staff, will be completed next week.

Of the $2 million in excess bond proceeds, half is intended for facility improvements, including automating payment at the garages and replacing parking meters with models that accept credit cards as well as coins. The rest will be used for closing costs and to set up a fund reserve.

The Downtown Toledo Parking Authority has managed the garages and meters on the city's behalf since its 1995 creation. The parking authority's operations now are being rolled into the Downtown Toledo Development Corp.

William Carroll, chairman of the board's facilities and development committee, said retaining the current facility operators for 90 days "gives us time to find out what we really have. We may continue with it, or maybe not."

After deducting its expenses, Downtown Toledo Development will remit parking proceeds to the port authority which, after paying debt service and setting aside funds for capital improvements, will split any profits with the city.

Carla Firestone Nowak, a port authority spokesman, said no changes in parking rates are immediately planned.

The new maritime center lease will be amended to end city involvement with part of the port-owned building while giving the port authority control of just over 13 acres surrounding it.

The port authority, in turn, plans to sublease the premises to the Great Lakes Historical Society, now based in Vermilion, for development of a National Great Lakes Maritime Museum in the building.

The Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission last week approved a $6,075,000 grant to the city and the historical society for site improvements, including dock construction and slip dredging for the Schoonmaker, building modifications to accommodate indoor exhibits, and other museum-related work.

"This will be the largest maritime park on the Great Lakes," said Paul Lamarre III, the port authority's manager of maritime affairs.

Bulkhead construction for the Schoonmaker's new dock should start in February, followed by dredging in July, Mr. Lamarre said. The ship, formerly known as the S.S. Willis B. Boyer, is expected to be towed from its current dock in International Park late next year.

Also during the meeting, the port authority board elected William Carroll as chairman and Nadeem Salem as vice chairman, for 2012. Mr. Carroll succeeds Opie Rollison in the head seat while Mr. Salem succeeds Brian Bucher, who has attended board meetings infrequently of late, as vice chairman.

Mr. Carroll, who was board chairman for the two years before Mr. Rollison's two years at the board's helm, said he accepted the nominating committee's request to return because of Mr. Bucher's unavailability and the absence of any other past chairmen or vice chairmen among current port directors.

Thomas Palmer, the board's chairman from 2003 through 2005, was replaced as a port director recently by Andrea Price, a City of Toledo appointment. The board Thursday morning passed a resolution in his honor and Mr. Rollison presented him with an engraved ship's wheel in recognition of his 12 years' service.

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

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