Council May Sell parking garages in New London

New London — The City Council requested Monday that City Manager Richard Brown assess the value of the two downtown parking garages to determine whether they should be sold.
the_day.jpgIn a separate vote, the council asked Brown to seek prices and qualifications from companies that could conduct a study of whether the city awards contracts evenhandedly to women and minorities.

The council decided unanimously to seek bids for the so-called “disparity study,” but its vote on the garages was split, four to three, with Mayor Beth Sabilia, Deputy Mayor Gerard Gaynor Jr. and councilors Rob Pero and Peg Curtin in favor.

“The city cannot continue to maintain these structures,” Pero said.

The Water Street garage earns revenue for the city, but the Governor Winthrop garage generates a trifling profit and needs roughly $4 million in repairs. An August memorandum from Desman Associates, an engineering firm in Farmington, noted the garage's “compromised structural condition” and urged the city to begin renovations “at the earliest opportunity, certainly within the next 12 months.”

“The city is stretching a rubber band, and there is no way of knowing when this rubber band will break,” the memo continued.

A study of the garages would weigh profits from a possible increase in fees against the costs for renovation and maintenance. Brown told the council that he did not know how much such a study would cost or how long it would take.

Sabilia asked him to notify the council if the study period would exceed 60 days.

Lower Our Taxes, the lobby group that petitioned to send the budget to referendum, has advocated the sale of the Governor Winthrop garage, fearing the tax burden a $4 million renovation would impose. LOT members were not present at Monday's meeting.

The council also voted Monday to find a company that can conduct a study of whether the city treats female and minority business owners fairly when it awards contracts.

The council is not bound by its vote to conduct the study. For now, it is simply seeking proposals from companies that want to manage it.

Such a study could cost $40,000 to $60,000 — money that is not set aside in this year's budget, according to Brown.

If the council proceeds, the company it hires will have to compile a database of businesses owned by women and minorities and identify which of those were awarded city contracts. The company would also survey professional and trade organizations and advocacy groups to determine their experience with the city's bidding procedures.
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