City approves 3-year downtown parking contract

City Commissioners approved a three-year parking management contract with SP+, the current contractor, during their Sept. 21 meeting.

In October 2020, the city planning department issued a request for proposals for parking operations and management services.

The city received four proposals and the Parking Advisory Commission voted in December to recommend the SP+ contract.

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SP+ has been the city’s parking contractor for some time and last year, the city chose a one-year contract extension while staff and the PAC developed a new contract under a new approach to parking management in downtown Great Falls.

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“In short, a paradigm shift was thought to possibly be in the best interest of the downtown community as well as the city organization. The goal was to explore a scenario that could potentially all but privatize the parking program while maintaining ownership of the physical parking assets such as the parking garages and surface lots,” according to the city staff report.

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But, as that discussion was beginning, COVID caused shut downs and impacted a number of city operations and local business.

Due to COVID, downtown parking enforcement was suspended for a year, “virtually eliminating all revenue sources of the parking program. This put the parking fund balance in an at-risk status where it remains to this day. Given the current state of the parking program revenues, fund balance and lack of ability to complete major repairs and maintenance, it is unlikely that the RFP to privatize City parking operations would generate favorable responses at this time,” according to city staff.

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During the Sept. 21 meeting, Craig Raymond, city planning director, said that he doesn’t think it’s a good time to push for a new contract, particularly under a new model of parking management downtown.

Due to current conditions, staff issued another RFP for parking operations and management under the same model currently in use.

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The top two proposals came from SP+, the current contractor, and LAZ Parking, according to city staff. A review committee of two city staffers and two PAC members interviewed the top two firms and determined SP+ would be the best fit for the city.

The contract as approved by commissioners is similar to previous contracts but hours attributable to certain tasks have been revised due to new technology and operational needs, according to staff.

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The total cost of the three year contract is $1,204,885 with the first year costing $390,013, or $35,976 less than the current one year contract extension the city is currently under, according to staff.

In 2019, the parking system generated $627,999 in revenue, in 2020 that dropped to $327,549 largely due to COVID and up to Sept. 1, 2021 the system has generated $260,439, according to city documents that are publicly available on the city website.

The expenses were $383,082 in 2019; $401,825 in 2020 and so far this year have been $264,694, according to city documents.