The Scranton, Pa., City Council on Thursday tabled a five-year contract with Standard Parking Corp. to manage the city's on-street, or metered parking, citing concerns over fees and revenue projections.
The council will take up the matter again — and a companion bill to expand meter times by two hours daily, and add Saturdays — next Thursday. Scranton, the 77,000-population seat of Lackawanna County, is a distressed community under the state's recovery program known commonly as Act 47.
Thursday's meeting followed a public caucus in which council members, business leaders and others questioned representatives of Standard Parking, which estimates annual revenue of $2.8 million from the meter deal. The Chicago company now operates the city's garages after having acquired Central Parking for $325 million in October.
The City Council last summer dismantled the Scranton Parking Authority through a series of moves that began with a stalled $1 million bond payment.
Some business leaders say expanding the meter hours disrupts workers and customers.
Council members Pat Rogan, Robert McGoff, Jack Loscombe and Frank Joyce all voted to delay the contract. Council President Janet Evans was absent.
"How much additional revenue would your firm actually bring in?" Rogan asked.
Standard Parking based its $2.8 million figure on a report last August that Rich and Associates Inc. of Southfield, Mich., compiled for the city. But the consulting firm, in the same report, admitted variables exist. "It must be noted that projecting future parking needs is difficult for downtown Scranton, given the recent economic financial issues with the City of Scranton," the report said. Tax increases, for example, could affect business decisions to locate downtown or move out, and affect future parking demand, Rich said.
The company's monthly management fee would be $10,000, not including fixed payments, interest and other fees.
Gary Lewis, a downtown resident and private-sector consultant who works with distressed debt, said too many questions are unanswered. "When you just add up all those fixed costs alone, that's a $32,000 a month payment that's fixed," he told the council.
"It's very difficult to value the contract and difficult to figure out what our outlay is going to be," Lewis added in an interview Friday morning. "The move to hire a third party is a great idea, but they're stumbling on the execution."
Lewis said numbers contradict - for example, projections more than doubling meter revenue from $1.25 million in 2013 when the Rich report said the on-street occupancy rate is already 91%.