OC parking authority shuts down

An Oil City panel charged with a singular mission – public parking – has voted to shut down.

“The city is already running the show so, why not?” said Barb Crudo, a member of the Oil City Parking Authority, at its final meeting Wednesday.

Voting with Crudo to formally dissolve the authority were members Daryl Hicks, who is the chairman, and Fred Weaver. The five-member panel has had two vacancies for several months.

At issue in the decision to terminate the authority was the board’s insistence that city officials and city council members were ignoring as well as bypassing them on parking-related matters in the city.

“We get no information or confirmation from anyone,” said Weaver. “Everything goes to the city.”

Minutes from the authority’s April meeting show the group’s dissatisfaction.

“The authority does not want to waste its time if they will not be involved in any decision making, etc.,” note the minutes. “They have not been made privy to any decisions which have been made regarding any of the (parking) lots, to include the Creekside lot.”

The latter public parking lot, one of many that once was overseen by the authority, has been blocked off due to interior renovation work at the adjacent former Mellon Bank building on the North Side.

The lot typically brings in about $3,000 a year in revenue to the city, said Hicks, and no arrangement was made with the county, which owns the former bank property, to subsidize that amount.

“That is losing money for the city,” said Hicks, adding the Parking Authority had no say in the arrangement.

The authority members were also critical of how the installation of new parking meters was configured as well as how parking rates, both for metered slots and permit slots, were determined.

A little history

The Oil City Parking Authority was formed in 1957 and directed to oversee public parking throughout the city.

The original considerations included: buy 11 public parking lots from the city at a token $1 each; handle operations at those lots; ban curb parking on Seneca, Elm, Center and Sycamore streets (6 to 9:30 a.m., 4:30 to 6 p.m. ) to “relieve traffic congestion and discourage parking by downtown workers.”

While those duties changed over the years, one new and major responsibility was handed over to the Parking Authority in the 1970s in the form of a new 500-slot downtown parking garage.

In addition to taking charge of public lots and the garage, the Parking Authority also offered various recommendations to city council.

They included free parking at the ramp for Job Service clients during difficult economic times in the early 1980s, providing parking tokens and park ‘n shop stamps for merchants to distribute, launching free parking on weekends and evening hours and setting penalty and overtime parking fines.

In 1980, the city had 713 parking meters that, added to parking fines, brought in about $2,500 a week to the city. Total mid-1980s assets listed by the Parking Authority, led then by chairman Henry Suhr, were $3.5 million, a figure that included expenses and long-term debt.

A typical fund balance after expenses, particularly payments to a bond taken out for the parking ramp, was about $8,000 at year’s end.

Essentially, the Parking Authority was charged with doing research and maintaining data related to off-street parking and to establish a coordinated system of planning “devoted to the parking of vehicles in the City of Oil City.”

Resolution to terminate

The agreement to end the Parking Authority was designed “to remove us from control over the lots,” Hicks said at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Everything goes back to the city with this,” said Weaver.

Crudo said the parking garage property was transferred two years ago from the Parking Authority to the City of Oil City, then to the County of Venango and finally to PennDOT.

The transfers were required in order for a new county transportation hub complex and a PennDOT parking lot to be built in the area where the former parking ramp was located.

“Two years ago, the authority planned to disband but was asked to come back to do that deal,” said Hicks.

The authority currently has no bonds and no existing project agreements, noted the resolution, and it has divested itself of any assets.

The “essential purposes and utility” of the authority are “fully exhausted as the City of Oil City has effectively assumed the administration and enforcement” of all public parking-related areas throughout the city, according to the resolution.