Lexington will soon transfer ownership of three aging downtown parking garages to the Lexington-Fayette County Parking Authority if a proposal approved Tuesday moves forward.
The transfer could save the city a portion of an estimated $5 million in repairs needed to keep the garages operating safely for the next 15 to 20 years, the proposal says.
The proposal, approved by the Parking Authority's board of commissioners, will be presented to the Urban County Council at a work session next week. Council members then will have to vote to approve or deny it, but it is not clear when such a vote might be taken.
Under the proposal, the parking authority would take over ownership and management of three garages: the Annex garage on West Main Street, the Victorian Square garage on West Short Street and the Transit Center garage on East Vine Street.
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Another parking structure — the Courthouse garage on Short Street — would be transferred to the parking authority in 2032, after the city pays the debt service on it, said Sally Hamilton, commissioner of general services.
The garages are now owned by the city and managed by the Department of General Services, while the parking authority handles the city's on-street parking.
The parking authority is governed by a board of volunteers appointed by the mayor, but it uses no taxpayer money. It is funded through fees and fines collected from on-street parking, said Gary Means, executive director of the parking authority.
Ideally, the parking gar ages would become self-funded, as well, he said. That could require increases in parking fees for heavy users who pay by the month, but Means said he didn't think daily "visitor fees" would be affected. Currently, visitors pay $1 for 30 minutes of parking in the garages.
Putting all the city's parking under one body would streamline management and ensure the garages received the maintenance and repairs that are required, said Bill Atkins, the city's chief development officer.
The transfer would allow the parking authority to put extra money generated from on-street parking toward repairs to the garages, which would save taxpayers money, Means said.
Details of the transfer have not been ironed out, but the city and the parking authority agreed that repairs to the Annex garage would be the first priority if the change is made.
The city has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past several years to maintain the 45-year-old garage, but an estimated $3.4 million in repairs are required to extend the garage's lifespan for 15 to 20 years.