Brakes may be put on Butler County garage automation

The Butler County Government Services Center parking garage in Hamilton.
The Butler County Government Services Center parking garage in Hamilton.

Butler County’s antiquated parking garage is getting a couple technology upgrades, but some officials say full automation doesn’t make sense right now.

The commissioners dubbed the five-story, 623-space garage at the corner of Court Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. a “Stone Age” garage back in 2015 and asked staff to start work on fully automating the structure. It currently operates as a cash-only, pay-at-the-gate facility.

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Proposals to automate the garage, making it more user friendly and allowing the ability to generate revenue from community events — ranging from $100,000 to $400,000 — were submitted a couple years ago. The operative budget amount had been $200,000 to $250,000.

Commissioners Don Dixon and T.C. Rogers now say they don’t support the project, at least not with the proposals currently before them.

“We’d all like to see it automated but it’s dollars and cents,” Dixon said. “When the payback is not in a reasonable time length, we’re going to have to wait until they come up with some different technology or the price comes down… financially it’s not a prudent business move at this point.”

Rogers he has never seen a “fully automated” parking set up yet, there is always someone manning them so he doesn’t support the investment, “unless someone can convince me and they haven’t yet,” he said.

The budget for the garage for next year is $191,437 supported by $195,000 in revenues. Part of the reason automation was proposed was the garage is not manned on the weekends so they wanted to capture revenue from event-goers. County Administrator Charlie Young has said that would only raise about $5,000 to $7,000.

The county’s situation is unique in that there are a number of different parking arrangements at the garage. People can pay $40 a month for a reserved, covered spot — spots on the open-air roof cost $30 — there are hourly and daily rates and jurors, law enforcement, fire officials and some others park for free.

The commissioners recently approved a $45,000 investment in the structure for a new ticket dispenser at the entrance with bar code technology, replacement of the 20-year-old computer system and a new cash register.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter, who first raised the issue four years ago, could not be reached for comment.