WAC and paid parking: A love story

I’m going to shoot you straight, folks. I find this whole paid parking discussion exhausting. I think it’s the details that get me. (Parking during the day will be 50 cents an hour, and at night, starting at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends the fee is $1 an hour. During the day, a cap of $3 is set and at night the maximum is set at $5. Parking is free from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m. so not to create an incentive to drive home while intoxicated. Except on Sundays, the free parking lasts until 1 p.m. as to accommodate the church-going crowd.) It doesn’t take long until wading through the ins and outs of the program becomes a lesson in tedium.

But after going to a fair share of public meetings on the subject, it’s pretty easy to see a few clear cut themes, not least among them is to make sure the Walton Arts Center swoons over the new program.

On several counts, the city’s new plan and policies are predicated on accommodating the WAC, a major downtown economic driver, as Don Marr, the mayor’s chief of staff would say.

It’s not my aim to opine whether the investment is worth it. That’s a value judgment I expect citizens want to make for themselves. It’s just that, if you put all the special considerations and allocations next to each other, you would’ve lined up one heck of a red rover team.

The yearly allocation to the WAC seems like a logical place to start. As the budget resolution stands right now, each year, the WAC would collect $289,000 from the paid parking revenue. The total estimated income from paid parking in the Entertainment District is $1 million each year, said Sharon Crosson, parking and telecommunications manager, at a recent town hall meeting.

The WAC’s yearly budget is approaching the $10 million mark, said Terri Trotter, the chief operating officer for the WAC.

The news of the proposed allocation to the WAC in the budget came as a bit of a surprise. Previously, city staff had only touted the revenue to be used to pay for the program itself and earmark the income to build a parking deck.

The designated revenue for WAC is aimed at keeping the location in Fayetteville and addressing their number one customer service issue, which is parking, Marr said at the town hall meeting.

As an added feature to the program, WAC will be able to sell parking reservations along with tickets to shows, Crosson explained at the April 13 agenda session with the City Council. If WAC sells the parking spot for $10, say, the city will collect its maximum-nightly fee for parking ($5) and WAC will get to keep the rest.

“That gives them the potential to generate extra income now,” Crosson said.

Also, the city has decided to sell monthly passes for the lots to be used during the day. For $35, monthly parkers will be able to use a designated spots on weekdays (excluding national holidays) from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The reasoning for the 4 p.m. cutoff for monthly parkers, as opposed to the 5 p.m. cutoff at the Underwood’s deck right up the road, was to better suit the WAC schedule, Crosson explained at the same agenda session.

Another change the WAC asked for and received was a tweak to the time structure. During the weekday, the parking rate is 50 cents for an hour from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. After that, the rate goes up to $1 an hour. But on weekends, the $1 an hour rate kicks in at 6 p.m. That’s to make the changeover coincide with when matinees let out, Crosson said.

Surely by now you’ve heard that the WAC is looking to expand. Applications proposing new sites for the WAC expansion are due August 2. The projected start date for paid parking in the Entertainment District has been declared for late July. But Marr shrugged off the suggestion that the two timelines had anything to do with one another.

The motive for the late July start date is to get the program running before students return for the fall semester, Marr said.

It seems the effort to court the WAC with has paid off. At the first council meeting where the parking ordinances and resolutions went before the aldermen, Trotter praised the parking program and the allocation.

“We have been so thrilled with the opportunity to be involved in the process,” she said.

Trotter continued to complement city staff for their work on the program, saying that whenever a resident, merchant or WAC raised a concern at public meetings, those issues were addressed by the next meeting.

It would sure seem so.

Mary Robbins is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She declared Fayetteville as her hometown upon moving here for college. She is a Journalism graduate who enjoys live music, the outdoors and attending city council meetings. For more of Mary’s contributions, visit her author page.