Casper’s City Council received a broad review of the city’s downtown parking offerings Tuesday night. One component of the study, which spans more than 100 pages, prompted the most debate between members: parking meters.
“There’s nothing more volatile in this city than parking and animals,” warned Councilman Chris Walsh. “It will consume.”
The study, conducted by the Kimley-Horn planning and engineering firm, found generally that Casper doesn’t have too few spaces. Dennis Burns of Kimley-Horn told the Council that less than 50 percent of the city’s parking spaces were utilized.
Burns said the city had an issue with managing the spaces it does have. He repeatedly suggested the Council should look at hiring a parking manager or director.
City Manager Carter Napier said he was “nervous” about the prospect of taking on more staff.
Among other things, the study found that Casper should invest in technology, better leverage private parking spaces and develop a maintenance program. The city doesn’t need another parking garage, Burns said, though it should invest in sprucing up the one it has.
One of the action items in the report includes implementing new technology. That includes tech that would recognize and read license plates. It also includes parking meters.
“Implementing paid on-street parking is a well-documented best practice and would help the City address several issues identified in the course of this study,” the report says. “However, on-street paid parking is somewhat controversial and if pursued will require significant additional public outreach and planning.”
Burns said the recommended meter price would be $1 an hour and that the meters would pay for themselves after a year. In each year after, they would generate roughly $471,000 for the city, Burns told the Council, a “substantial revenue stream” that could pay for a parking manager.
Councilman Shawn Johnson said he had “philosophical” problems with paid parking. He noted that residents have already paid for the roads, and meters will just prompt them to pay to park on the streets they already paid for.
Burns said one of the issues with parking is employees of downtown businesses leaving their cars in front of the shop for their entire shift. Councilman Dallas Laird wondered if they could pass something or urge business owners to have their workers park elsewhere.
“It hasn’t been that easy in other cities,” Burns replied.
Besides, other members said, many retail shops are probably already doing that, adding that a bigger issue may be the office spaces above the ground-level stores.
Meters — and regulations about how far away drivers must move after a certain amount of time — could alleviate that issue, Burns said.
He said the report is full of ideas that can get the Council started and that a parking manager could provide more. But that position seemed tied — at least during the Council’s discussion — to whether the city would install meters.
Burns reiterated that the meters would make the city money, which Laird said he doubted.
“I don’t think this city makes money on anything,” Laird said. “It loses money on everything.”
He said the parking recommendations sounded like it would cost “millions of dollars” to implement. Burns said that only some parts — like the director position and installing meters — would cost money, and that it wouldn’t be millions.
The Council will vote to accept the review at a future meeting, Napier said. But that doesn’t mean they will be rolling out the report’s recommendations, like the meters or hiring a parking manager.
Napier said he’d want more of a “green light” about that before going forward. Accepting the study will allow for future dialogue on parking, Napier said, which at least some Council members were anxious for.