Columbia City Council authorizes bond issue for Short Street parking garage

Thursday, January 19, 2012 | 7:05 p.m. CST; updated 11:32 a.m. CST, Friday, January 20, 2012

COLUMBIA — By the time the Columbia City Council authorized a bond issue Tuesday night to finance construction of the Short Street parking garage, the cost had risen to $11.3 million, up from an initial estimate of $6 million to $7 million.

The primary reason for the increased cost is that the city has steadily ramped up the size and number of spaces in the garage. Initial plans called for a total of 300 spaces, but anticipated demand has pushed that number to 424.

When the City Council approved construction of the garage in October, the cost was estimated at $9 million. Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said Tuesday that the difference would be covered by revenue from the city parking fund.

“The raise in the parking meter rate over the last eight months has generated probably in excess of a million dollars,” Kespohl said. He noted that the parking utility has about $2.5 million in cash on hand.

Still, the city will lose money on the garage while it's making bond payments, according to Kespohl's calculations.

“The payment on the bonds is estimated at $686,000 per year for 20 years," Kespohl said. “If we rented every space at $60 dollars a space, the total would come to $25,500 per month, so we’re losing $22,000 dollars per month over the raw cost of building the garage over 20 years.”

Mayor Bob McDavid was initially concerned about the size of the garage, but he expects there will be high demand for its parking spaces.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as massive as I was afraid initially it might be," McDavid said. “I thought the architectural renditions — (it) looks like four different facades masquerading as one structure — really helps break it up a lot.”

During comments near the end of the meeting, Kespohl urged the council to vote on a new motion authorizing the garage construction, given that the cost had risen so much. McDavid, however, said that because the ordinance passed in October put no cap on the cost, no such vote was necessary.

“More spaces is going to cost a couple million dollars more," McDavid said. "That’s just the math."

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