Butler County negotiates fees to keep parking garage project on track

Automating payment could mean additional revenue from the garage.

Plans to automate the Butler County parking garage are back on track after recent proposals from companies that would manage credit card payments sought rates that could have blown the county’s budget.

The Butler County commissioners have dubbed the five-story, 600-space garage at the corner of Court Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. a "Stone Age" garage. It currently operates as a cash-only, pay-at-the-gate facility. Proposals to automate the garage, making it more user friendly and allowing the ability to generate revenue from community events, were submitted earlier this year.

The equipment bids were in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $400,000, but Randy Quisenberry, the county's asset and purchasing director, said the total budget is coming in at around $200,000.

Quisenberry said when bids first came in for credit card transaction fees it looked like their budget was blown.

“To have that system interface with the equipment we were going to buy, there were original estimates that it could cost up to $50,000 extra,” he said. “And that would have just thrown our budget, it would have tipped the scale on that budget to the wrong side.”

He said after many meetings and phone calls, transaction fees have been lowered to 7 cents per card swipe, which he said is manageable.

Quisenberry said they will install two new entrance and two exit gates and pay-on-foot stations in the elevator areas on the first and third floors.

County Administrator Charlie Young said they still have some loose ends to tie on the proposal, such as how to handle monthly parkers, many of whom write checks. He said he isn’t sure the new system can handle checks.

“We’ve kind of been wrestling with one issue at a time,” he said. “It feels so slow but on the other hand we want to get it right. This is a pretty significant amount of money and we want to make sure we’re prepared to accommodate what we can with all of our different types of parking.”

Commissioner T.C. Rogers said until he sees the proposal — including pay back time frame — he doesn’t know whether he can support the automation project. He said five years to have the investment paid off seems reasonable to him.

Young said five years is the goal and if they can’t, he said he isn’t sure they will proceed with project.

The 2016 budget has $126,713 pencilled in for parking garage employees and benefits and $205,000 in revenues. By automating the garage officials are also hoping to capture revenue from weekend events, but Young said they only expect to raise about $5,000 to $7,000 from that.

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