City Council approves parking rate hikes; OCC lots set for overlay in ‘07
Kasten rakes city for years of Old Town neglect

       Over the next five years, the Colorado Springs Parking Enterprise plans to spend $11 million from parking rate increases, of which nearly all is earmarked for the city's downtown and $100,000 for Old Colorado City.
       “That's a pretty small percentage,” Judy Kasten, chair of the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District Advisory Committee, told City Council at its meeting May 23. She argued that in the city's eyes, “we're perceived as very insignificant” despite Old Town's contributions of several hundred thousand dollars to the parking fund over the years, not to mention its bolstering of the city tax base through its major renovation efforts in the late 1970s. “Many in Old Colorado City believe we are left out in favor of the downtown,” Kasten added.
       Following a favorable vote by council, the rate hikes will take effect July 1. In Old Colorado City, the cost to feed a meter will go from 50 to 75 cents an hour, while in the core part of the downtown the hourly rate will become a dollar. Monthly rates will also go up downtown, but Old Colorado City's $25 rate will not change.
       With the last rate increases having occurred 10 years ago, the city had scheduled new hikes in 2007. However, the Downtown Partnership (merchant group) lobbied Parking Enterprise Administrator Greg Warnke to raise them sooner to avoid what's been called a “double whammy” on the downtown in conjunction with the nine- month closing of the I-25/Bijou Street bridge for the COSMIX project in 2007.
       The $100,000 for Old Colorado City will be used to overlay the district's three free parking lots. Much of the downtown money is slated for “streetscape improvements” to make that area more attractive. Another $35,000 would cover a third of the cost of pedestrian rails on the new Bijou bridge. The rails would “add a little more pedestrian security and bring it more in line with the overall downtown design,” Warnke told council.
       Of Old Colorado City, he said “there weren't a lot of projects over there,” but encouraged the district committee to propose additional projects as time goes by. Kasten said after the meeting that this will definitely take place.
       Warnke had previously advised the district to study how the Downtown Part-nership works with City Council, and Kasten told council she had heard similar advice from that group, but it reminded her of the professor in “My Fair Lady” telling Eliza Doolittle, “Why can't you be more like me?” The Westside feeling is that the downtown is “out with the old, in with the new,” she went on. “We're the historical district… We have a special niche, and we feel like it's an attraction all its own.”
       After hearing Kasten's roughly 10-minute oration, Mayor Lionel Rivera objected that the city does not play favorites. “It's not us against them,” he said. “The city supports Old Colorado City as much as it does the core of the downtown and the wider downtown area.”
       Councilman Jerry Heimlicher followed with the comment, “Everything she talked about is real.”
       Based on city figures, about $200,000 of the new parking-meter income over the next five years will be from the Old Colorado City district. However, all such money goes into city funds, and the city does not try to “reward” different areas with projects corresponding to their parking income, Warnke has told the committee previously.
       The original plan for the new parking money (as presented to council in April) had included no projects for Old Colorado City. After Heimlicher asked why this was, Warnke met with the district committee, and the overlay idea came out of that. The work is to take place in 2007.

Westside Pioneer article