Parking fees amended, as Farmville council looks at options

Published 2:53 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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There’s only so much the Farmville town council can change about downtown parking fees, without running the risk of breaking the contract. Council members learned that during their Wednesday, June 12 meeting. In the end, they unanimously agreed on one adjustment to the parking rate, while also learning fees will end up being more expensive for anyone who uses a debit card or phone to pay. 

What does the contract say? 

But before we go into what changed, let’s explain how this contract works. Last fall and winter, we covered the council’s discussions with ABM Building Solutions, to look at energy efficiency. The council wanted to be more energy efficient and save money where possible. ABM did a comprehensive technical audit, with results presented to the council last November, detailing areas where the town needed to make upgrades. Over a 20-year period, they projected significant savings in multiple areas. For example, by letting ABM make the changes and replacements with the water meters, Farmville would save $4.36 million over 20 years. That’s $4.36 million combined over 20 years, not annually. 

ABM detailed similar projected savings at every building and location operated by the town, looking at the HVAC systems, water meters, roof conditions, electric vehicle charging stations and yes, parking meters. 

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ABM then gave the council a proposed contract in December, one where they would provide and install the needed upgrades. That includes things like the full electric vehicle charging stations at the Plaza Lot and Farmers’ Market, the thermostat replacements at the sports complex and the new parking meters. There are multiple other work projects included in this, such as HVAC work at the sports complex, roof upgrades at the bus facility and LED lighting at the public works department. 

The town council unanimously agreed to the contract during their Dec. 13 meeting. 

But there’s two problems if the council suddenly asks to lower any of the fees involved. First, that throws all of the revenue projections out of sorts. At that point, there would be no guarantee Farmville would get the projected benefits. 

The total project stands at a cost of $7.8 million. The expected revenue growth/savings comes out to $10 million, giving Farmville a $2.2 million benefit. Again, this is combined, adding up all growth in these areas over the next 20 years. If you change the rates, even if ABM agrees to do that, then that $2.2 million gets smaller. 

Second,  there is some protection built into the contract for Farmville. If the town fulfills all of its obligations, if it changes parking fees as requested, sets the water rate and does everything else but still doesn’t see that projected revenue growth/savings, ABM has to make up the difference. But if the council makes changes, then that protection is no longer guaranteed. 

Parking fees and meters

This is where the parking fees come in and why it’s not impossible, but also not simple to change them. As part of the contract, the Farmville council agreed to three things when it comes to the meters. First, they agreed to let ABM replace the older meters with newer versions that would accept debit or credit cards. Second, they accepted ABM’s suggestion to increase parking fees to $1 per hour. And third, they agreed to a series of rate increases over the next 20 years. 

“Parking rate increase projected to increase 50 cents every five years, starting on Year 5 through Year 20,” the contract says. 

If that’s followed, it means a price hike to $1.50 per hour in 2028, then up to $2 per hour in 2033, finally arriving at $3 per hour in 2043. 

Those price hikes are required in order to see the projected total increased revenue that ABM estimated of $1.64 million. Again, just like the water meters, this is a combined estimate of increased revenue over the full 20-year-period. The increase for 2024 from the parking changes is projected to be $27,401. 

And so here we are. As of May 31, the fees for metered parking in Farmville stand at $1. During their work session earlier this month, council members had asked about either lowering the rate or offering 50 cents for a 30-minute period, rather than just the $1 minimum. Farmville Town Manager Dr. Scott Davis told the council Wednesday that they could provide multiple options for people, but the rate at least needs to stay the same, because of the contract. 

“You don’t have to have the dollar minimum if you don’t want to, but you do have to have the dollar rate per hour and hope that you make a dollar an hour,” Davis said. “If you want to do 50 cents for 30 minutes, you can do that. If you want to do 25 cents for 15 minutes, you can do that.” 

But in order for this contract to work and for the town to see savings/revenue growth, they will need to do what’s been agreed to in the contract, Davis said. That includes increasing the fees every five years. 

“At the end of the day, 20 years from now, we’re talking about a whopping $3 to park at a parking meter, whereas you go anywhere else and it’s already more than $3 to park,” Davis said. 

Making a change 

The idea of a 25 cent fee for 15 minutes was quickly struck down, as council members said they weren’t sure that would be enough time for most people. 

“It seems like the only time somebody would want to do a 15 minute (stop) is if they’re literally picking up something,” said council member Daniel Dwyer. “You’d be hard pressed to do much shopping at all in 15 minutes.” 

Instead, council member Donald Hunter suggested going with a minimum of 50 cents for 30 minutes. 

The other members agreed, with Adam Yoelin asking if they could review the 50 cent fee within 6 months or so, to see if they were still within the requirements of the contract. Davis said they could review the status at any time. 

So as it stands, parking meters in Farmville now have two options. You can pay 50 cents for 30 minutes or $1 for an hour. And if you use a debit or credit card or the app on your phone to pay for either, expect some additional costs. Any credit card transaction fees will be paid by the consumer and for those using phones, there is a technology fee, charging the person for using the app. 

The new parking fees should take effect within the next couple of days.