LETHBRIDGE: The free parking train is pulling out of the station.
The Heart of our City Committee has flat-lined a proposal to subsidize the cost of parking downtown by placing specially designed hoods featuring paid advertising space overtop some parking meters. Use of the free spaces could be monitored using the same "chalk on tires" system the city already uses in most cases, while a percentage of the profits would be funneled back to the city.
Day Media first presented its idea to city council at the beginning of February. At that time, Mayor Rajko Dodic told the business it "isn't the end of the road" for them. He and other council members recommended Day draft a formal business plan, get a city business license, poll downtown businesses over their interest in the project, then come back.
So come back they did - but this time the company's presentation was referred to the Heart of Our City Committee, a sub-set of city council. Day's company surveyed 52 independent downtown businesses, and found 45 of those businesses were in favour of the idea. He secured a business license and gathered the statistics to create his proposal.
He was met with a no.
Day, who says he's been developing the plan for two years to target Lethbridge specifically, explains why he thinks his concept was rejected.
"Administration was a bit of an issue," says Day. "They had a couple of concerns about enforcement, and how Day Media would conflict with some of the current strategies like the raising of the parking meter fees so that people will take buses."
Bev Lanz, who sits on the committee, says she's not aware of a plan to raise parking meter rates. But she does know city staff is looking for ways to increase public transit use. She agrees that administration's concerns were a big part of the reason they turned Day's company away for now.
"One of the main hurdles we couldn't overcome was administration did have some concerns," says Lanz. "It's a complicated process that they're suggesting. They want to mesh their proposal within an existing system, and regulatory has its own set of rules, has its own budget, has its own goals."
Lanz says city staff is working on a study that will take an intensive look at how they can improve the plans for parking, public transit, and other infrastructure services in the downtown area.
Meanwhile, Day says he's going to take his idea to other Alberta cities. Red Deer, Day Media's next target market, has apparently already expressed some interest.
"We had a lot of support from the public, a lot of support from businesses. Lethbridge is the ideal size, the ideal population and it would have a great impact, but that's just the decision that was made and we are fully prepared to move on."
Photo by Marion Warnica, Country 95 News: Day Media president Steve Day stands outside council chambers at city hall.
Visit http://www.country95.fm/news/news-detail.asp?ID=3591 for Country 95's coverage of Day's first presentation.