News Briefs
May 7, 2015

News Briefs: Rutland Region

The downtown parking deck struggles

RUTLAND—You wouldn’t think a simple concrete structure with a couple of elevators and a ramp connecting its tiers would be such a fiscal sinkhole. Long-term users can pay $55 per month (discounted for Rutland Area Chamber of Commerce members) or rent space by the day or hour in the downtown parking deck, convenient to Merchants Row and Center Street activities.

Open for 18 years, the deck owes its existence to the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, intended to improve connections among various alternative means of transportation and private automobiles. It would directly serve private passengers, municipal buses and interstate buses with easy access to the train station, more or less a parking lot away, and shuttle service to the regional airport in Clarendon.

Not all those plans have been fulfilled, at least not yet.

The deck contains about 600 parking spaces; if only half were rented at the monthly fee, the deck would bring in $13,500. If each were used only once a day at $3 a day, the daily rate for parking two or more hours, the deck could bring in $54,000.

But the state, which ran the terminal for years, claimed that at no time did it receive enough income to pay for operating the facility. Although the state continues to own the deck, the city is now responsible for its operation. However, the city’s Finance Committee recently learned that perhaps even reorganizing operations and hiring a management company may not have been enough to make the structure self-supporting.

The state pays the city $50,000 a year in management fees plus $95,000 to compensate for the parking spaces occupied by state employees. This results in a monthly income from the state alone of slightly more than $12,000. The arrangement between city and state calls for the two to split any loss at the end of the year.

Wilton told the committee that the deck appears to suffer a $10,000/month loss. Looking at invoices since July 2014, Wilton sees an average of $22,000 in costs, she told the Aldermen on April 22. In the winter, snow removal and ramp heating constitute a major expense, but she did not generalize about the reasons for seemingly elevated invoice figures in non-snow months.

In addition, the city owes LAZ Parking, a national parking management company, $115,000, according to its operations manager Ray LaMoria. According to its contract with the city, LAZ should receive a monthly base fee of $2,000, plus part of any operational surplus. Wilton believes that some of the questions underlying the ongoing money leakage may be answered through a financial reconciliation.

Sustainability illuminated

RUTLAND TOWN—Installing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs in place of its currently older streetlight bulbs is expected to save Rutland Town about $4,000 in energy the first year after the swap. The switch will take place on all 83 fixtures, but will cost the town nothing because Green Mountain Power and Efficiency Vermont are donating the replacements to municipalities statewide. LEDs also eliminate light pollution, because the new light fixtures are hooded and don’t render the stars invisible, an esthetic win as well. Installation of the new bulbs is expected in the next month, according to GMP media director Kristin Carlson.

Downtown evening hours contemplated

RUTLAND—The announcement that Phoenix Books planned to come to downtown Rutland but wondered whether the community would support evening hours has triggered a set of recurring discussions. Creative Economy forums, community development workshops, and other economy boosters have all realized that there must be enough street activity to make Downtown the place to be after work and on weekend evenings. Much of the Downtown Rutland Partnership’s energy has been devoted to that end, including summertime Friday night Center Street music and entertainment. The Paramount has upped the number of evening events; it now hosts 160 events a year. Downtown businesses have not, in the past, had much incentive to stay open past 6 p.m. Most small business owners constantly weigh whether or not to adjust their hours to draw in the greatest number of buyers while still allowing themselves personal and family time. It’s a delicate balance.

Congratulations

to Rutland City Public Schools and Rutland Central Supervisory Union for winning a $1.7 million, five-year grant from the state Agency of Education to support the startup and growth of Engaging Programs & Inspired Connections (EPIC) for grades 7-12. The program will be offered at Rutland High School, Rutland Middle School, Proctor Junior and Senior High School and West Rutland School, beginning in July.

to Wonderfeet on its new robotics section, installed just before the museum’s official ribbon-cutting. Visitor numbers have far outnumbered Executive Director Myra Peffer’s expectations.

to VAC on the reopening of an improved Mitchell Therapy Pool, now sporting new plumbing, an additional drain, fresh paint, a new stairway, and and parts replaced in the equipment room and under fresh cement.

to Paul Gallo, to be named Provider of the Year by the College of St. Joseph on May 9 at the school’s annual Provider Scholarship Gala. Gallo, known for his support of Mount St. Joseph Academy, Rutland Free Library, Paramount Theatre, Creek Path, Wonderfeet Museum, and Rutland Creative Economy, shares the award with his wife Ingrid, whom he praises as his inspiration for community involvement.

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