close
Parking garage

Clarksville council says ‘no’ to funding parking lot and other projects

Another marathon five-hour meeting of the Clarksville City Council on Thursday led to, among other things, the council saying “no” to spending on a new downtown parking lot, improvements to the Frosty Morn property and repairs to the center of Burt-Cobb recreation.

With a 6-6 vote – which, as a rule, is a failed order since there is no majority – all of these projects are currently shelved. The amendment would have added the necessary funding of $27 million to the city’s fiscal year 2022 operating and capital budget.

The main concern of several council members on Thursday was the $25 million allegedly paid to the city’s Parking Commission.

Of this total, $20 million was reportedly spent to begin construction of a new parking lot near Franklin Street. The remaining $5 million would have been set aside to address an engineer’s recommendations to repair the existing Cumberland Plaza parking garage, which had previously been closed for public safety reasons but has since reopened after the city ​​has made short-term repairs.

Councilwoman Ambar Marquis, shown here the night she was chosen to fill Jason Knight's unexpired term in Ward 5, led the movement this week to at least delay city funding for a new downtown parking lot. town of Clarksville.

At the time of the vote on the budget amendment at second and final reading, Councilor Ambar Marquis told council that he should suspend the $25 million loan to the Parking Commission, at least until the Commission determines how it will reimburse the city.

Marquis said to do otherwise would be “irresponsible” on the council’s part and that the Parking Commission has known for years that it needs to change its fee structure to generate more revenue.

It was “a kick in the box on the road,” Marquis said.

Council members who disagreed with Marquis, at least for his stalling tactics, included Stacey Streetman, Karen Reynolds, Pro Tem Mayor Wanda Smith, who currently sits on the parking commission, and Travis Holleman, who cited a “huge need, now” for downtown parking, adding that the current economic inflation will only increase the cost of building the garage in the near future.

Montgomery County and its project partners are about a year away from the opening of the F&M Bank Arena, and not having a new parking lot coordinated with that opening will be problematic for downtown and its business owners, a added Reynolds.

Review:Clarksville Parking Commission reviews revenue and parking garage options

Despite the reopening of the Cumberland Plaza Garage, Mayor Joe Pitts’ administration argues Thursday’s failed ordinance will allow for continued deterioration of the garage and ultimately shorten its lifespan. He called Thursday’s vote “disappointing”.

Those who voted against the funding were council members Wanda Allen, Trisha Butler, DaJuan Little, Wallace Redd and Vondell Richmond, as well as Marquis.

The “yes” votes came from Pitts, Streetman, Reynolds, Holleman, Smith and Brian Zacharias.

Normally, there would be 13 votes cast, but Ward 11’s seat on the council is currently vacant following the recent departure of Ashlee Evans.

Butler said continuing concerns about the Parking Commission’s troubling finances — it’s currently a corporate fund outside of the city’s budget — add to his view that the city needs to bring the budget back. of the Commission under the control of the municipal council.

“There has to be some oversight of that ($25 million),” Butler said.

City Chief Financial Officer Laurie Matta reiterated that the current problem is the parking fund’s insufficient rate structure for fees and fines.

According to general accounting rules, the parking garage must be an asset of the parking fund, Matta said.

“When we issue debt for parking, it will fall under the parking fund and will stay on their (Parking Commission) books until they can repay the city,” she explained, adding that , no matter what, the city will not raise taxes to pay for parking, although there has been recent speculation about it.

Other projects denied funding after Thursday’s vote include $2.3 million to begin renovating the former Frosty Morn building in the Red River District.

The Frosty Morn project was seen as an important jumping off point to revitalize an area of ​​town near Austin Peay State University that has been in decline for years by creating jobs, small business start-up opportunities businesses and spaces for community use.

Another $135,000 that had been earmarked for repairs to the historic Smith-Trahern Mansion in downtown Clarksville also fell victim to the ‘no’ vote as well as completing building repairs at the Burt-Cobb Recreation Center for children and families, at a cost of $50,000.

The future is now uncertain for these and other projects that were part of the $27 million amendment. At least for now they are on hold.

Contact Jimmy Settle at [email protected] or 931-245-0247. To support his work, sign up for a digital subscription to TheLeafChronicle.com.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins