The non-profit society that runs five of Maple Ridge’s downtown parking lot will have to compete if wants its contract renewed.
The City of Maple Ridge has asked for bids on running the city’s five lots for the next three years.
Currently, the Maple Ridge Downtown Parking Association operates the lots on a no-charge basis, with net proceeds going to the city’s improvement fund.
“We’re definitely putting in a bid,” said Bob Jones, society president. “For someone else to do this, the city would have to decide that they want someone else to do this for more money.”
“Nobody can do this for what we’re doing it for.”
Jones said that the society so far has been running at minimal cost, with one employee. The goal is to keep parking fees or leases as low as possible so that companies continue to use the lots instead of parking on the street.
“We take one person’s salary out of it and the rest goes to the city for future improvements,” Jones said.
“We try to keep the costs down as much as we can to encourage people to use them.”
Jones says many people don’t know the history behind the parking society. It was formed in the 1990s by downtown businesses. The society bought parking lots in the downtown so that employees would have a place to park, leaving the prime spots on the streets for customers.
Downtown businesses, back then, paid a property tax levy to cover the $1.5 million the city borrowed to buy the properties, although two parking lots were donated by local businessmen.
The society pays the city between $12,000 and $14,000 a year from the parking fees, said administrator Lynda Lawrence.
She also said the goal is to keep parking fees low in the downtown area and said that customers complain when there’s a $5-a-month increase. Most businesses pay about $30 a month for each stall for all-day parking.
“We’ve always kept the rates down,” Lawrence added. “People are not used to paying more for parking in Maple Ridge.”
Increased demand for parking in recent years means there are now only four to five vacant stalls throughout the five lots, she added.
Darrell Denton, property and risk manager with the City of Maple Ridge, said the requirement to ask for a request for proposals is part of the city’s purchasing policy, for contracts to go up for bid, once they expire, to insure maximum value for the taxpayer.
The five lots – on Brown Avenue, on 119th Avenue, on Selkirk Avenue, North Avenue and on Lougheed Highway (next to the Bella Vita restaurant) comprise a total of 175 parking stalls.
According to the bid invitation, the successful proponent will be paid a monthly or annual fee for service for operating the lots.
The operator would also collect parking fees and pass that revenue on to the city on a either an annual or quarterly basis.
The city is also asking that the operator make regular patrols of the parking lots, do maintenance, such as line painting or power washing and garbage removal, as well as customer service relations.
The contractor will have to use their own vehicles and ensure personnel are in uniforms.
The RFP also wants bidders to show a “clear and concise overview” of how it intends to grow revenues through the use of new parking programs and technology.
The city is willing to consider expanding any deal with a contractor to include the 750 other city owned parking stalls on city streets.
Coun. Gordy Robson was one of those involved when the society was formed more than 20 years ago.
“It looks like it [the request for proposals] is designed specifically to exclude us.”
He said the long-term goal of the parking society was to help save enough to build a multi-storey parkade in the downtown.