Parking ramp improvements could mean higher fees in Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo parking ramp improvements could mean higher user fees & other charges

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A Waterloo City Council member is proposing some controversial ideas to pay for repairs to the city's aging parking ramps.

A consultant has recommended $3 million worth of improvements to the three ramps.

Two of the city's parking ramps were built in 1957, the other in 1961 and they're starting to show their age.

While they're structurally sound, the ramps are deteriorating.

The 5th Street ramp isn't what it once was.

The paint is peeling, the drains are rusty, and the lights are supposed to be white.

That's why city councilman Ron Welper thinks it's important to think out of the box when trying to find a way to pay millions in improvements.

"I want parking to pay for parking. Right now, we're bonding money to repair our ramps and I just don't think that's the way we should be conducting business," said Welper.

One idea is to change city parking meters to accept credit cards.

Welper thinks that would make it easier to pay the meters.

Another idea?

Raising rates in the ramps.

Currently, users pay $30-$55 per month.

That's on the low end of rates charged by other cities.

Des Moines charges as much as $150 per month while Cedar Rapids rates are close to the same as Waterloo.

Welper says daily rates should be raised as well.

"Right now, collectively, if all of us could pay a little bit more for parking, it would certainly offset our tax askings to pay off the repairs with property tax dollars," said Welper.

Another idea which is generating controversy is charging for parking at events on city property.

That includes Riverfront Stadium where the Waterloo Bucks play.

"They've had free parking forever. If you start charging for parking, you're going to deter a lot of people from coming to these games," said Bucks fan Bob Rice.

The Bucks owners aren't enthused about that idea either saying "when it comes time to deal with it, we'll work with the city on it."

Changes would have to wait until the Bucks lease at Riverfront runs out - which is still years away.

Still, Welper believes the conversation needs to start now.

He says each winter, salt causes more problems, making costs go higher to fix what's wrong.

"It's our duty to maintain our city buildings and we can't look away just because we may have to spend money someplace else. There's a better way of conducting business and charging for that parking, I believe, is the way to do that," said Welper.

There are no proposals before the Waterloo City Council now.

Waterloo Black Hawks officials say part of their lease with the city for Young Arena includes 900 parking spaces provided by the city.

So nothing could happen there until a new lease is signed.

The Black Hawks say in their current lease, they are allowed to charge for parking close to the arena but they don't do that.

Waterloo mayor Buck Clark said parking ramps have been an issue for years and that there is an ongoing conversation on how to pay for improvements.

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