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Sarno announces shake-up of Springfield Parking Authority

Date: 6/18/2012

June 18, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Downtown parking was presented as a vital part of the city's economic development at the press conference last week when Mayor Domenic Sarno announced a shake-up at the Springfield Parking Authority (SPA).

The job of executive director, currently performed by Harold King, was eliminated by a vote of the board and the city will conduct an audit of the organization's finances.

Sarno said the re-organization was to "maximize economic development."

Board Chair Mary McNally stressed the termination of the position of executive director was not a reflection on King's performance. King's last day will be June 30.

"We thanked Mr. King for his years of service to the Parking Authority," McNally said.

Current SPA comptroller Ehsanul Bhuiya will manage SPA's day-to-day operations and former SPA Executive Director Christopher Moskal will provide management assistance.

When asked what the long-term structure will be for the SPA, Sarno said information from the audit would help shape it. Sarno said the audit should be completed within 60 days.

McNally added, "We will closely look at all the financial decisions from the last 18 months."

Sarno also announced the Department of Public Works Director Al Chwalek has been named to the SPA board.

SPA is facing a refinancing of its bond in June 2013 and the management contract for its on and off-street parking with Republic Parking would be expiring early next year.

Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said the audit and re-organization was in preparation for the Request of Proposals for the management contract and the refinancing of the bonds.

Kennedy said SPA is not operating under a deficit.

He stressed that safe and easily available parking was part of the efforts to "turn around the perception of downtown."

Kennedy said SPA has worked with sports and cultural institutions to offer parking for various events.

"It's a major tool and institution for the city," he said.

Sarno added SPA played a major role in the agreement that brought 300 jobs with Thing5 to downtown.

"[Parking] made the deal," he said.

Sarno said his administration "is working to address the aging Civic Center Garage."

Kennedy also mentioned the parking study undertaken by MassDevelopment. Within a 2.5-minute walk from the MassMutual Center, there are 3,000 parking spaces. Within a five-minute walk there are 5,300 spaces.

According to the study, the parking near the present Civic Center Garage is under-utilized, so the 1,200-car garage does not need to be fully replaced. The report recommended building a new 400-space garage on the TD Bank lot on Dwight Street and demolishing the present garage when the new one is completed.

The report estimated that creating a new garage and turning the location of the current garage into a parking lot would cost $15.1 million with other streetscape improvements adding $2 million.

There was no announcement about a timeline for implementing a change to the garage.

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