By PHIL NOBILE
An attempt to analyze, and possibly mitigate, the Village of Mamaroneck’s parking woes with modern meters throughout the village was idle for more than three months, frustrating some trustees, one of whom believes he has had an answer to the problem since 2012.
At an April 7 Board of Trustees work session, the trustees agreed to have Village Manager Richard Slingerland issue a request for proposal, RFP, for new multi-space parking meters to be installed in the village. The decision came after a parking study by Walker Parking Consultants of New York City, initially commissioned late last year to the tune of $40,000, according to Slingerland. The study recommended new meters to assist with parking enforcement and revenue stream.
But the RFP never went out to potential bidders, and, for more than three months, the project sat idle. It wasn’t until the RFP was issued on July 18 that the project actually got underway, leading to confusion and anger from some trustees.
“There was no reason for it to take more than three months,” Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, said. “Every day we don’t issue an RFP it is lost revenue for the village.”
Potok expressed frustration at the delay in soliciting bids on the project. He said the process to choose a company to install the meters would take weeks, so the new meters may not appear on Mamaroneck Avenue until early next year.
“Had the RFP gone out mid-April when it should have, we could have made decisions to install the systems before winter, so it’s another season gone by for no good reason,” he said.
The RFP, which was issued by Assistant Village Manager Daniel Sarnoff on July 18, lays out the village’s preferences for furnishing and installing the multi-space meters, which range from the specific spots and lots on Mamaroneck Avenue in which the systems would go, to a five-year service and maintenance contract required from any potential bidder.
Multi-space meter systems offer greater capabilities than traditional meters by allowing modern amenities like paying by credit or debit cards, adding more time through apps and a cell phone, and improved revenue stream by reducing “piggybacking” of leftover time on meters.
In explaining the delay, Slingerland said the Board of Trustees was attempting to “resolve different policy positions” on obtaining the new parking meters from April until recently.
At the April 7 work session, a 3 to 2 party line vote was cast in favor of issuing the RFP; Mayor Norman Rosenblum and Deputy Mayor Louis Santoro, both Republicans, voted against it. The issue was then voted on again at the July 7 work session, this time 4 to 1, with Rosenblum as the lone remaining opponent of the measure.
A vote on issuing an RFP is not required by trustees, but is done so “if there is concern about whether the Board of Trustees would refuse to approve the purchase,” Potok said.
According to Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Democrat, the delay between the first RFP and the second was “without a doubt” the direct result of Rosenblum and Santoro.
Although she said she did not know how the mayor and deputy mayor delayed the RFP from being issued, Miller speculated side conversations between Rosenblum and Slingerland could have caused the delay.
“I would assume [Mayor Rosenblum] told the village manager this wasn’t a priority and not to pursue it further,” Miller said. “The mayor clearly has some of his own missions.”
Miller said the delay was part of a “larger issue” on the current Board of Trustees, and that both Rosenblum and Santoro are not forthright with information and intentions.
“The lack of transparency and disconnect of information shared amongst the board by our mayor and deputy mayor is detrimental to the entire village,” Miller said. “It was very frustrating to hear we were delayed without knowing why we were delayed and where the direction came from inside the board to have it delayed.”
Although he was told by the board to issue the proposal publicly twice, Slingerland said it was the differing of opinions on the board—both publicly and in private conversations—that led to the delay.
“[The village administration] wasn’t intentionally holding it up, but looking for clearer directions,” Slingerland said.
Rosenblum denied any intentional interference with the issuing of the April RFP.
“It’s a matter of doing it right, and I don’t think it has been set up right. It’s a sad commentary when someone who tries to make characterizations about myself and the deputy mayor is absent the majority of the time and can’t recall what is going on,” Rosenblum said in reference to Miller.
Saying the delay was due to a “miscommunication,” Rosenblum said there were questions remaining about the parking study’s results and multi-space meters’ cost to the village that lead to his no votes on the matter.
“An RFP should be done with as much information as possible,” he said.
The debate over parking solutions in the village is not new. The 2012 election season set the stage for differing opinions on the issue among members of the current board. Back then, the mayor had his own idea about how best to address the village’s parking woes.
Rosenblum announced his intention to seek proposals to build a multi-tiered automated parking garage on one of two village-owned lots off Mamaroneck Avenue in October 2012. Citing findings by his Ad Hoc Committee on Parking, the mayor argued it would increase available parking and put the village “on a steady course” vis a vis parking for the next few decades.
Potok and Miller—trustee candidates at the time—disagreed with Rosenblum’s idea, and wanted to find more cost-efficient measures instead.
Potok, chairman of the village’s volunteer Budget Committee at the time, said building an automated garage could lead to exorbitant parking costs for motorists, and, as an alternative, suggested measures such as stricter collection of parking fines and the multi-spaced meters the village is now looking to install.
Potok said using data the multi-space meters collect could have been integral to any parking study conducted as opposed to the village paying for a consultant’s study.
“There are a number of reasons for using multi-space meters: they’re more convenient, generate additional revenue and provide more information,” Potok said. “We have recommendations from the study and, quite frankly, they overlap the recommendations made by the Budget Committee two-and-a-half years ago.”
According to the Walker study, lining Mamaroneck Avenue with the new multi-space meters from Boston Post Road to Halstead Avenue could cost up to $200,000. With meter revenue at $437,000 annually in the village, the cost of the meters could be offset within two to three years with the meters potentially increasing the village’s parking revenue as much as 20 percent.
The Walker study also warns of potential problems when it comes to an automated garage, saying that, although an in-depth second phase of the study will be concluded soon regarding new parking options, “structured parking is expensive to build and operate.”
“In a village where the idea of raising rates from $.75 to $1 was contested in the public meeting, it is difficult to offset the cost of building parking [garages],” the study reads. “It is also a last resort for many people; most people prefer
on-street parking and will choose surface parking over a garage if possible.”
Although he hasn’t mentioned a possible automated garage recently, Rosenblum said the current meters “stink and are ugly,” adding “half the time they break down” at the July 14 Board of Trustees meeting. He denied his votes against the multi-space meter RFPs had to do with a possible automated garage, saying “you can have both.”
“You should have multi-space meters and parking garages because one helps the other,” Rosenblum said. “You have to look at an overall plan with the meters and tiered parking and so on.”
The second part of the Walker study is expected to be finished by the end of August, according to Slingerland. Bids for the installation of the multi-space meters will be accepted by the village until Aug. 21, 2014.