BATON ROUGE - The Metro Council approved a $100,000 contract to help create better parking in downtown.
Approval was granted Wednesday for the Mayor's office to hire Fregonese Associates. The company will oversee upgrading meters and automate the city's two parking garages.
Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel described the parking situation downtown to council members as "antique."
"We have a guy sitting there taking money when people come in, and trying to make change," Daniel said referring to the city's downtown parking garages. During large events, this can back up traffic.
Money generated from meters is also inconsistent. In 2014, the city collected about $251,000 and in 2015 that number dropped to $164,000. It is attributed to a lack of enforcement and other causes. A study shows if all meter revenue were collected, theoretical revenue exceeds $500,000.
In August, downtown workers told WBRZ, parking had become chaotic. Some said construction decreased parking and police were writing more tickets.
At the council meeting Wednesday, Councilman Trae Welch questioned whether or not the city should pay Fregonese to oversee the changes, since a parking study has already been completed.
But, Daniel said the city cannot do it themselves.
"We don't have the expertise to do this kind of thing," Daniel said. "Rather than hire someone and pay them all the time, it's much more prudent to go out and get a contract for the small piece of knowledge we're trying to gain so we can get it accomplished."
Once the contract is approved and the purchase order is complete, upgrades could be installed in the next six months. New meters could accept credit cards, bills, coins and accept payments via cell phones. Drivers can also use an app to access an online database of real-time street parking availability and get a cost estimate.
The funds to pay for the upgrades come from a parking improvement fund, generated by meter money and parking garages.
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