Parking enforcement in downtown Bloomington could see some changes later this year.
A proposal by City Council member Jamie Mathy would extend enforcement hours into the evening with current employees working staggered shifts to cover the extra time. The plan was one of three initiatives proposed by Mathy during Monday night’s virtual Committee of the Whole meeting.
“The parking situations that we have start later in the day as more residents move into downtown Bloomington,” Mathy said. “They get off work, they come home, they put their car in a parking spot and they stay there for the rest of the day, which means there’s no spots available for customers of the businesses.”
Mathy, who represents Ward 1, said he has been a “longtime proponent” of making the city’s downtown parking garages free and putting meters at the on-street spaces. But he said he has been told that plan may be “too drastic.”
Council members unanimously agreed to have the measure placed on a future City Council agenda. Mathy, a downtown business owner, said it could take at least 90 days for that to happen as city officials examine the plan’s cost effectiveness.
“We’ve had this situation ongoing for years,” said Mathy, noting parking problems have subsided during the COVID-19 shutdown. “This is to get the conversation started about how do we have a potential fix for later this fall (and) into the winter time.”
Mathy also proposed having the Downtown Task Force report from 2017 presented again for consideration and extending waivers of late fees on food-and-beverage taxes in the wake of the pandemic.
The original task force report generated controversy over the so-called “catalyst” project to build a new library and transportation hub on the site of the Market Street garage. Other recommendations included changing parallel parking on Main and Center streets to diagonal spaces, installing brick or stamped concrete crosswalks, and increasing decorative lighting and public art.
With the Bloomington Public Library now planning a scaled-down expansion plan at its current location, the catalyst section of the report has been rendered moot and Mathy wants to revisit the other suggestions.
“There was a lot of really good ideas inside of that task force (report) that were definitely low-hanging fruit that we could still work on,” he said. “The main concept is to bring the task force report forward and pick out the parts that we can do quickly and easily.”
Regarding the late fee waivers, Mathy referred to recent council action prorating liquor and video gambling license fees. The city already has approved waiving the fees for 30 days following the expiration of Gov. JB Pritzker’s emergency shelter-in-place order.
“I think that we have businesses in town that might need a longer period of time in order to get caught up with all the various fees and taxes that they have,” said Mathy, adding he originally considered a six-month waiver period, but was open to council member's Mboka Mwilambwe’s suggestion of 90 days.
“Taxes are still due, we’re not waiving the taxes. But we’re waiving the late fees so if businesses need longer to get caught up and it’s the difference between them paying our fees and keeping people employed, that’s the angle I was going for.”
The committee voted to have city staff analyze the impact of both proposals in preparation for possible future council action.
Members also heard a presentation from Public Works director Kevin Kothe on assessment and maintenance of the city’s sanitary sewer system. The council is expected to vote on a $1.9 million closed-circuit television sewer assessment project at its next meeting on May 26 after the Memorial Day holiday.
City Manager Tim Gleason opened the meeting with an update on the pandemic’s impact on the city, noting that a clear picture from March and April will not be available until next month at the earliest.
“We are projecting that we will have used $2 million of the $4 million cash reserves that we have above the GFOA (Government Finance Officer Association) minimum,” he said.
Gleason also said the Bloomington Police Department will continue to enforce Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order.
“When the police have some sort of shelter-at-home order violation, we respond. We always respond, and we have no other choice,” Gleason said. “The pathway we feel is best is to try and gain compliance while we’re on the scene.”
With the state order set to expire at the end of the month, Gleason said the city needs to begin examining its approach to reopening facilities with the safety of residents and city employees as the top priority.
“It’s not as simple as flipping a switch and we’re back to normal like the day before COVID-19,” he said. “We need to consider how we safely work and don’t put this workforce in jeopardy.”
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