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Norwalk Council, ‘inundated with complaints,’ queries Parking Authority

Planning Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C), center, expresses frustrations Thursday to Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia (not shown.) From left, around Kydes, are Minority Leader Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D), Tom Livingston (D-District E) and Council President John Igneri (D-District E).

NORWALK, Conn. — Parking enforcement – a.k.a. parking tickets – should not be synonymous with South Norwalk, John Kydes said Thursday.

“That is an important issue and it is one that we have been working on for several months,” Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia said at the Common Council Planning Committee meeting, which Kydes chairs. “… Our concern at the Parking Authority was we were handing out too many damned tickets and how do we abate that?”
The somewhat touchy conversation was a prelude to an update on the Authority’s $200,000 parking study, which started last month, according to Carolyn Krasnow of Walker Parking Consultants.

“The goal, obviously, is to grow the parking and to create a parking system that is robust enough to meet people’s needs so that you are not essentially discouraging business and development, without building so much that you turn SoNo into a giant parking lot,” Krasnow said, later explaining that recommendations might include changing the structure of the Parking Authority.

Brescia said the study was inspired by Mayor Harry Rilling, who, in a conversation about the potential loss of an East Avenue parking lot, turned to him and said, “We have to find a better way to deal with these things instead of by crisis only. Let’s put together some sort of plan that has long range implications.”

“I think an organization like the Parking Authority, like any other organization, deserves scrutiny and we certainly want input from other people,” Brescia said.

The consultants for the study were chosen by a steering committee created by Rilling, Brescia said, naming its members as himself, Jackie Lightfield of Norwalk 2.0, Economic Development Director Elizabeth Stocker, Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King, Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan, Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss, former Mayors Alex Knopp and Bill Collins, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin, Director of Management and Budgets Lunda Paul Asman and Council President John Igneri (D-District E).

“You know my pet peeve, it’s excessive enforcement,” Kydes said, asking if the Parking Authority was going to expand its recent policy of issuing a courtesy card/warning ticket on select vehicles, extending a grace period for parkers whose time had run out.

“We doubled it” on Oct. 1, Brescia said.

A July 31 memo from Brescia to the Council explained:

“We established a courtesy card/grace period where the Parking Authority enforcement officers place the courtesy card/warning ticket that explains that they (enforcement officers) had seen time run out on the visitor’s parking meter and the parking officer had added another 20 minutes. We started this program (which, by the way was suggested by LAZ) in July, using 2 days each week at random locations throughout the downtown districts. The results through July 22nd was that we issued 207 courtesy tickets.  During that time period, there were only 13 violations from that number after the courtesy time expired (20 minutes) or, more importantly, we decreased the number of violations by 194 tickets over just 6 days of the pilot program. The value of those tickets was $4,850 (for 6 days).”

“The Norwalk Parking Authority voted unanimously last week to both continue and expand the Parking Violation Courtesy Customer pilot program which started July 1, 2017,” Administrative Services Manager Kathryn Hebert wrote to the Council on Oct. 2.

She explained:

“This is how it works: on two randomly selected days each week, our enforcement officers scan the area of two randomly selected streets for parkers who have overstayed their time at the meters and would be due a violation ticket. Instead, the officer places a Welcome to Norwalk postcard which reads: “We noticed that your meter expired. Please accept the additional 20 minutes we added to your meter on us! Have a great day.”

“In the first three months of this pilot program we handed out 1,136 of these cards and only 26 remained beyond their extended free time. In other words, we didn’t issue what would have been 1,110 parking violations to people visiting our downtown area.”

 

Kydes said he understood that turnover is needed, but, “If you have a parking lot is one-quarter full maybe the enforcement should be more lax. That’s just my view on things.”

The feeling has been intensified by knocking on doors to reach voters during campaign season, he said.

“Parking enforcement is synonymous with South Norwalk. I want to expel that, I want to separate those two. I want South Norwalk to be synonymous with nightlife and fine dining,” Kydes said.

The grace period has been increased from five minutes to 10, Brescia said.

“Mr. Kydes isn’t the only one who is being inundated with complaints,” Igneri said, explaining that friends from Fairfield and Weston don’t want to go to SoNo.

“They want to meet in other communities where parking is fairly stringent but they felt more comfortable there,” Igneri said.

“They are not things that are new to us they are things we have been working on for a long period of time,” Brescia said.

Krasnow went on to explain the study.

“The study is divided roughly into three sections. One is data collection and research, and stakeholder input to try to begin to get the lay of the land. It’s a comprehensive study and there’s a lot to take in. So that’s where we are now, that phase of work really goes on for several months,” she said.

“Then the long analysis phase, that’s when we get to the issues we have been talking about, starting to look at the structure of the operation, the specifics of the daily operation, the rates and the time limits, ticketing and how do you create a system that is well balanced for your customers and your residents, as well as issues related to parking demand, towards future growth. How do you strategize your parking system so that not just right now it’s in balance but going forward you are able to keep up with development in the city in a way that makes good use of space, and helps you grow, helps you achieve your growth goals for new tenants, and new owners in various areas of the city,” she said.

Sheehan asked if other Parking Authorities typically have a break-even model, narrowing that down to New England.

“It’s a common model,” Krasnow said. “There are plenty of cities that have other models. I mean, there are a range even within this area. Certainly, there are plenty of Parking Authorities and they have a break-even requirement, they are completely self-sufficient. Your Parking Authority is actually part of the city, it’s not a completely independent institution as they are in some places. And there are some that are really just a department under the city and it’s part of the general fund. We know cities that fund parking development out of the general fund.”

27 comments

M. Murray October 6, 2017 at 6:51 am

We need to learn more about the company that runs parking enforcement, their profit margin, and how they are paid. Is it a flat contract or do they receive a percentage of fines issued and collected? Is there an incentive for them to issue more tickets to make more money?

Vigilant October 6, 2017 at 7:15 am

“…explaining that friends from Fairfield and Weston don’t want to go to SoNo.They want to meet in other communities where parking is fairly stringent but they felt more comfortable there.” #comfortable = often code-speak for other stuff, not about parking

Mike Mushak October 6, 2017 at 8:48 am

As residents of SoNo, we have changed our behavior with parking over the last decade, walking and biking more to get around, and when we do use our car we the smartphone app for public parking and sometimes using the private garages.

I find the enforcement annoying but I also see the other side of the issue You have to keep turnover going or some folks including employees on long shifts or local residents would abuse the system and park all day in the most prime spots in front of businesses who need that parking, as I remember happening before the stricter enforcement.

I also remember the time before the Parking Authority, when the Webster Lot was poorly maintained and full of trash and broken curbs, a bad first impression to the city.

I never saw this myself but heard stories about the Yankee Doodle garage being an open air bathroom and hangout for drug dealers and users. It was a big issue about a decade go. I use that garage now when the free spaces are filled up on the street, when popping into Banchouse for a meal. That garage is now safe and clean and looks a lot better, and the new lighting is really cool and makes the garage safer and more attractive.

I don’t know what solutions are out there to the strict enforcement, but I do know that the first impressions visitors have are often its public parking lots and garages. There’s still issues with trash and occasional bad behavior, but not like it used to be just a decade or more ago.

The Webster Lot used to look like we lived in a city that didn’t care about its public spaces, and it might be argued that a bad first impression can turn away customers as fast as stricter enforcement might. It costs a lot of money to maintain these public lots and garages, and they have never looked better in my opinion. I notice these things no matter where I travel, and its very important.

Id rather have the self-sustaining Parking Authority be responsible for keeping them clean and safe instead of the overworked crews from DPW, which would not be as dependable considering their many other responsibilities, as well as cost taxpayers across the city who may never use those lots.

Im not offering any solutions here, just observations.

Bryan Meek October 6, 2017 at 9:18 am

The last contract I agreed to as former NPA chair actually penalized them if they wrote too many tickets.

Norwalk issues less tickets than New Canaan. And about 1/3 of what Stamford does last I knew.

Meter revenues and permits are still 85% of the revenue. A good part of that money is used to pay off the debts for the garages as well as th structural overhead concrete repairs and maintenance they require. This was grossly neglected while under control of the council and we almost had to condemn both Haviland decks and the Yankee Doodle garage.

The “meter maids” used to work for DPW and they were replaced through attrition. When I first joined NPA we had four remaining. On average 2.5 of them were out sick or on leave on any given day. To write a $25 parking ticket it cost us $55.

As for the tickets, there are grace periods, appeals processes, and multiple levels of adjudication offered and very often exceptions are granted. But for the most part, violations are legitimate and enforcement is necessary. The same way you have to pay your lunch tab, you have to pay to rent your parking spot. Like speeding, it is impossible to issue tickets for every violation, but if you never enforce it would be a free for all.

We are a city and parking ticket are a fact of life if you want healthy commerce. No enforcement would hurt businesses as cars would be abandoned in places where several customers could have parked instead.

I think a lot of people have good intentions, but they are lost in this idea that we are some small town with only a few low cost, low maintenance surface lots.

If they really want to see costs explode, service levels deteriorate, and businesses move they should return control of this to the council and DPW.

Pamela Parkington October 6, 2017 at 10:05 am

Mr. Meek if you could answer M. Murray’s questions it would be helpful to all of us. How is LAZ paid? Percentage of fines or a flat fee?

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 6, 2017 at 11:54 am

@Bryan Meek, thank you for supplying additional background. The CC approved 200k for the Norwalk Parking Authority study, the “brainchild” of Mayor Rilling, who sits on the steering committee, along with mayoral staff members King and Stocker, RDA staff members Sheehan and Strauss, and two former mayors, both democrats. Jackie Lightfiled is the “throwaway” non-affiliated member of the steering committee. And I may have this completely wrong. Anyone who knows better, please clue me in. But what I see is a lot of people already paid by the City allocating part of their time to a $200,000 parking study. Meanwhile, we had to beg, borrow and plead for a commitment from the city of 195k to develop a Master Plan. Once again, we are approaching our planning ass-backwards. The parking study, the Manresa work and the POCD developement should happen in concert. What’s the point of a 200k parking study that’s not in tune with the Master Plan? Meanwhile, the 200k does not reflect the real cost to taxpayers, becasue that figure does not include the time of City employees on the steering committee.

Mr. Kydes, why should parking enforcement be your bete noire? Do your constituents believe they should get to park for free, or overstay the time on the meter without risking a parking violation? Many cities depend on parking citations as sources of revenue. Norwalk needs revenue. But we are afraid to write too many parking tickets? Have parking tickets stopped people from parking in NYC? My son just paid $100 to the NYC Parking Authority because he can’t seem to keep up with opposite side of street parking requirements—requirements meant to fascilitate street cleaning. However, I’m delighted to report that he’s not ready to jump ship on Brooklyn. If Norwalk is perceived as a dynamic and desireable destination, people will pay to park and risk receiving citations. Once again, our CC Planning Committee, led by Kydes, puts the cart before the horse. The solution to people not liking parking tickets is not to write fewer tickets. It’s to enforce the parking regulations. GGP is banking on parking revenue. Why shouldn’t the City of Norwalk?

Bryan Meek October 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm

@Pam. The last contract I signed gave LAZ a $100,000 management fee. Before that it was $200k per year.

In the year 2017, the Mayor’s office still hasn’t figured out how to publish the agenda in a useable format, but if you dig down to page 74 in the May 23rd agenda you can see the full NPA budget for 17/18.

http://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/12105

It’s still $100k.

If you look at the biggest expense driver on the first line, salaries and benefits you will see that they have budget roughly $2 million for 36 full time equivalent positions (includes many part time workers).

This is roughly $55k per year per full time worker.

If these positions were to go back into the AFSCME bargaining unit under DPW, you would be looking at having more positions to do the work because of work rules. It would involve more headcount, overtime to manage a 24×7 system, defined benefit plans (Laz workers 401k), and all the usual stuff that happens with our labor contracts. Costs would easily be an additional $2 to $3 million by my estimates. This would either have to be picked up by taxpayers or parking rates and tickets would need to be increased 50%.

Michael McGuire October 6, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Thank GOD that someone on the CC is finally taking notice. There is so much to write about on this topic that I’ll break it into meaningful chunks. In my opinion the NPA is one of the greatest obstacles to a flourishing Norwalk. Notice I said NPA and not Parking Fees. I believe in parking fee’s just implemented in a fashion of “Do No Harm”. So I’m going to hit the following topics. And then maybe add one or two. I’m doing this here since it’s the best way to reach the powers that be – by way of the public.

Topics
1. What is the real cost to Norwalk for the NPA on Office Buildings of the Urban Core–
2. What is the impact on SoNo’s retail business’s
3. What are the questions we should be asking (and why is NPA so opaque)
4. What are some effective and pragmatic approaches to revising NPA policies
5. Why has it taken this long

So let’s start with #1

In 2014 I was asked by the NPA to help write a scope of service for the 2015 Desmond report done for the NPA. My key issue then, as it is now, was the actual cost to Norwalk to have the NPA. Specifically, my “contribution” to the scope of service was to have Desmond answer the question – at what price point do parking fees/enforce begin to negatively affect business and the Assessment values of properties in our urban core? I checked with Desmond to see if they had the ability to address this question and they did. Interestingly, the 2015 Desmond report did not address this question.

So I started to do my own analysis. For office buildings I’ve found the following – the parking fee placed on Norwalk’s urban core office buildings is close to $2.00 per square foot. In many cases that is roughly what these properties are paying for in real estate taxes. And remember, the assessment for a property is based on its market value. So when you add an additional $2.00 to the buildings operating expenses of $8.00/SF you are adding 25% to the cost of operation. Net effect – you just devalued a building by 25%.

Some people with argue that the building owner’s don’t pay this fee the tenants of the building do. That is absolutely true. But, when you tell a prospective tenant that the parking fee is $42/month they immediately start to add up the number of employee’s x $42/month and add that to their bottom line. Result is they will end up offering $2.00 less in rent. I now have 10 years of direct experience with this.

However, if you said the monthly parking fee was $15/month they would not add that into the equation but instead look at that as a benefit. Ironic.

More insidious is this reduction in value creates a compromised financial structure for a building such that it cannot be maintained properly. You can skate by with minimal maintenance for 5-10 years but eventually it catches up with you. Worn out building don’t attract good businesses thus exacerbating the downward spiral of an urban core.

What to increase the Grand List in Norwalk? – Revise the NPA’s parking policies.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Maybe while they’re out picking up campaign signs, DPW workers can write parking tickets too and save the NPA on salaries and benefits. Seems like they have plenty of time on their hands. Or maybe some of the guys from the NPD who “supervise” road work to the tune of $500 per day per cop can take time out from leaning on their shiny new cruisers playing Candy Crush Saga to also write parking tickets. The last time I called NPD about illegal parking (on Quintard), they did exactly nothing. Losing revenue from illegal parking is a missed opportunity. But it’s unreasonable for the Norwak Parking Authority budget to set us back several million dollars a year.

Bottom line: the City of Norwalk has too many people on the payroll or receiving pensions. This may work well for the mayor at the polls, but it’s bad for taxpayers.

Rick October 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Kydes is lost, this was pathetic to read.

First off has it been established its just the parking authority who tags cars?

We see the names of players who for the most part have helped destroy the city over the years.Where is the police reports that show they tag cars each night just look at the police log you know the one thats in English.

This is hilarious no one has have ever been towed? Is that a cash cow for just the towing companies? wow a can of worms I bet. Where was that in depth conversation on that?

The crime here is they the powers of be treat the public as if we are all stupid, its only the ones with brown noses folks.

Tow logs police input and the areas of concern each day with the police dept is shown in the police logs, anyone read them? They didn’t seem to make it to the meeting or did they?

Mr. Kydes isn’t the only one who is being inundated with complaints,” Igneri said, maybe he is the one who listens.

Lets all talk about the huge parking lot on MLK near SNEW the city via laz lined it marked it into a complete parking lot what 90 cars and what happened? Owner took it back after the city did all the work what a bargain folks they must have Suchy represent them also.

Is it a stretch not to trust most of them in office or hired to screw the city?

Lets talk studies , Stantec is Norwalks study queen , they do lot for the city who grades them? Ny city yesterday detailed their experience with the Canadian turds, they were paid for a toll study told NY to expect a great windfall thru the study , Ny just said that study was 30 million short of expectations,dont worry Stantec works for Norwalk the low hanging fruit city. We now dont have to be fooled before the next study we already know they are worthless. Ryan Park is their cash cow.

I know Walker Parking Consultants wonder if they were given the results before they did their report? Who are they related too? Stantec have to may Norwalk studies this month?

Shots fired again last night in the city but we have$ 200,000 for red herrings instead of some law enforcement help.Keeps up we wont need parking spots the city will be on the stay away list soon anyways.

I also remember the time before the Parking Authority, when the Webster Lot was poorly maintained and full of trash and broken curbs, a bad first impression to the city.

who does the work hacks from laz or our professional DPW with the right equipment?

Hacks from Laz

seems a lot isn’t talked about maybe its by design hate to think they are told how to think.

Where is the police input how many hours each week our own professionally trained officer writes tickets instead of preventing crime?

It amazing put all of these people in the same room and we get what?

The Hour ran a story on new construction on water st showed two cars in the article , they were both towed last night , Rich must of been concerned tywo cars not paying rent on a building destined for demo, yes folks Norwalk is joke. Truly have toi get here early for a good seat.

City hall has no clue how the city works when so much is omitted from conversation is it by design or just ignorance?

Guess its like the noise problem it was adresed and the problems never went away according to the police log.

Michael McGuire October 6, 2017 at 1:40 pm

# 2
NPA’s Retail Effect – Or How to drive business out of Norwalk

SoNo should be a thriving – but it’s not. Why? Ask the business owners and they will tell you the customer traffic has waned over the past decade. NPA has been in existence over the past decade. Hmmmm.

In the retail and restaurant business there are well defined metrics for gross sales to costs. You can apply that to any costs line item. Violate those metrics and it’s not “if” you go out of business, its “when” you go out of business. In my career I have seen this pay out hundreds of time with all types of retailers. That is why SoNo has seeing such churn in its retail/restaurant market. For the rents that are being charged down there the restaurants simply need to do more business. The area demographics would suggest these rents are accurate, but they don’t take into account that business is down in this specific area for a defined reason.

Like many of you I used to go down to SoNo for entertainment. I stopped around 6 years ago for all the reasons noted in the article. Like many of you I voted with my dollars.

One of the key areas a City interacts with citizens is via pubic services. None is more universal than public parking. As Mike Mushake correctly noted it should be clean and inviting. But it should also not leave you pissed off, or why come back.

I’ve provided the following solution to the NPA as early as 2014. Let me know what you think.

Solution – Recognizing that anyone occupying a parking space in SoNo is doing one of two things – they either live there or they are transacting business there. To the later crowd, those transacting business (all diners included), I would suggest that the City treat them just like what they are – a customer. To that end if someone overstays’ s their limit in a public parking space don’t hit them with a $25 ticket. Instead institute a “premium parking fee” of say $3.00 for the next ½ hour/hour whatever. If they still over stay add an additional premium parking fee. Make those premium parking fee’s easy to pay.

Emboss something like this on the premium parking fee notice.

“Thank you for your patronage and doing business in the City of Norwalk. We value you as a customer and understand that in life things are not predictable. Accordingly, we have applied an additional premium parking fee to accommodate your needs and for those of the business around this space. This can be paid (define where and how). And again, thank you for your business”.

Finally, getting SoNo to thrive like Bedford Street in downtown Stamford is not a long shot, it just take listening to the business’s that operate there. If the restaurants in SoNo thrive the Grand List grows.

Michael McGuire October 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm

#3
Are we asking the right questions? And getting the right answers?

NPA policies imposed on Norwalk are, in general, done without an understanding of the negative impact those policies visit upon the building owners and business of Norwalk’s urban core. Why does this happen? Simple the folks overseeing the NPA lack the experience and skills needed to fully understand the implications of their decisions and/or to ask the right questions. I’m not saying they are bad people, just that they are not provided with sufficient facts to make wise decisions.

Here are some good questions we should be asking (actually I have been asking these question since 2014 but no-one will answer).

1. Why are the NPA’s P&L so dumbed down as to provide little, if any, meaningful information on operations?
2. Why is the cost to operate the Mechanic Street lot and the High Street/Main Street lot, both open air, surface parking lots the same as the cost to operate a 15,000 square foot office building in Norwalk’s urban core? Since it’s City owned land they don’t pay taxes, and they don’t pay for heat, hot water, water, building repairs, building maintenance etc. etc. I find this very hard to believe – please explain.
3. What is the right parking fee levels to ensure business growth, Grand List growth and parking system integrity.
4. If we don’t have the vertical density of Stamford or New Haven, should we really be comparing ourselves to them? If yes, than what adjustment should be made?
5. What should it really cost to operate a system with 3,318 parking spaces? $6.8 million dollars, or $2,050 per parking space per year seems a bit excessive.
6. Is it fair to burden a few portions of the City, and drive down our Grand List, to fund a parking system that has already been bought and paid for by taxpayers?
7. Is this the best system for Norwalk.
8. How can the NPA be structured to “Do No Harm”.

Disturbingly, the entire NPA’s $6.8 million budget is place squarely on the backs of Norwalk’s most fragile commercial sector – the urban core property owners and the small business that reside in those buildings.

I believe in parking fee’s. Just implemented in a manner of “Do No Harm”. That grows the Grand List.

Bryan Meek October 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm

@MM.

The allocations can be done more scientifically, but NPA has to pay to remove snow and surface lots tend to collect more snow than the garages. On the other side, garages need more lights, electricity etc.

Over a $ million goes to debt service to pay for the garages and capital improvements that are bonded. These debt payments ballooned this year from the way the notes were written to pay for the Maritime Garage.

The NPA is also required to maintain cash reserves under GAAP. I think they are still catching up to what is required since being obliged to do so beginning in 2012.

There are closer to 4000 parking spaces. These facts bring your number closer to $1000 than $2000 per space. Honestly, I don’t know if that is too much or too little. But as a taxpayer, I am happy to pay to park when I want to and I don’t really feel like I should pay more taxes to help others who can’t manage their business models.

The mission of the NPA isn’t to satisfy just one group of stakeholders, rather the entire city’s needs.

What the NPA should be doing now (with debt payments dwindling down) is to address the city’s more pressing need of lack of public parking, which is a much larger problem than the few people who don’t like to feed the meter for service they are provided.

After Mayor Rilling decided not to reappoint me, I gave him 4 strategic locations to start investigating. 4 years later it seems it requires a $200k study?. 1. East Norwalk lot needs to be decked. 2. The vacant lot on Water St (old Pepco) needs to be purchased and made into a surface lot with a waterfront picnic / dock area. 3. The library could have taken 30 spots of the bank’s lot for a market rate of $750k (not $5 million). And 4. Expansion of the Glover Ave rail commuter lot. But this is all based on what I used to know from four years ago. Maybe a Wall Street Station should be invested in before doing Glover Ave.

Bryan Meek October 6, 2017 at 2:48 pm

@MM. Your other posts just came up. So, if NPA is killing business the please explain why revenues are going up and up without rate increases. In other words, how is it that more people are paying to park in SoNo than ever, but at the same time business is dying? How is it that the commercial garages are nearly full too and charge 2 to 3x what NPA charges?

I understand your wants and needs to revitalize the Wall Street area, but the NPA isn’t the bogeyman to Norwalk’s success like you make it out to be. Rather it is a low cost, efficient operation that costs taxpayers nothing.

Hopefully #4 and #5 will include how much you think taxpayers should fork over to subsidize businesses who couldn’t accurately forecast their costs. It should also include how good for business it will be to have jalopies abandoned in front of their store for days on end.

Rick October 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Where is the input from the fire marshals, they by the way have their own ticket book for fire lanes and hydrants why not put one on the committee they obviously have input far better than some of the old hacks that play Norwalkers.

Towing cost and storage should be out in the open , this has never become an issue?

The vacant lot on Water St (old Pepco) where contamination rises to the surface each rain is a great lot for Norwalk to buy.

I wasn.t here but they say GE had PCB tanks there at one time how true that is Im not sure, the blue film that surfaces each rain is real

Pamela Parkington October 6, 2017 at 4:42 pm

@Mr. Meek – Thank you for the attachment, at the Library I work for the starting salary for a Reference Librarian with a MLS is $54K. So you are telling me that these guys who sit in their cars waiting for the meters to expire make on the average $55,000 annually, more than a Librarian with a Masters?

Also, our high end average employee performance raise is 3.75%, per the budget presented and approved it indicates a 9.42% increase in salaries over last years. Why so high? Average in the private sector is 3%.

Some of the numbers are very hard to read, do your numbers include City Personnel? If so, why?

We have 49 employees @$1.8M, which includes an Exec. Director @ $140K annually. Granted many of our employees are PT, making an average of $30k.

I understand that you defend the PA, but these salaries seem awfully high.

Bryan Meek October 6, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Hi Pam. It’s not that I’m in love with the idea of a parking authority or even paying to park. But I hate for the city to make a grave mistake because a few people who are of the same mind, but choose to risk tickets. I can’t speak for the increase….maybe more security or customer service personnel are planned. The budget docs make some mention but I didn’t dive into it.

Please keep in mind too that the $55k average includes payroll taxes, health insurance, retirement contribution, etc…. City jobs generally fund these items to the tune of 40 cents on the dollar. I believe LAZ is closer to 20 cents, so the real gross pay is probably closer to $44k on average.

I would gladly rather invest more in our libraries too. But also, these jobs have higher risk of injury and I would think the library is cool place to work. Not that others don’t love what they do, but it’s probably more of a job to pay bills than a love of literature and learning and life.

M. Murray October 6, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Interestingly I parked on River St not that long ago in a free 2 hour parking spot. After about an hour, I wasn’t sure I would make it in time, so I ran out and found a spot a few spaces ahead so moved my car, knowing I would definitely be finished within this new 2 hour window. Imagine my surprise when I came out an hour and fifteen minutes later to find a $28 dollar ticket on my windshield. I immediately sent my appeal in explaining that the employee must have “inadvertently” not realized that the car had moved. I then received a letter in the mail saying my appeal was denied, with no explanation. I now take time stamped photos of all my parking in Norwalk.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 7, 2017 at 9:05 am

Good point, @Andrew. The Common Council—or Kydes at least—approaches complaints about parking tickets as the problem they’ve been elected to fix. The NPA is studying parking in Norwalk to the tune of $200,000. Meanwhile the Common Council grudgingly approved $195,000 for the Master Plan (initially 50k), and 75k towards the Manresa study, the other 75k funded through private donations. The taxpayers are on the hook for nearly half a million dollars, all going towards planning studies and the consultants who direct them. But the city appears ready to sell valuable air rights for a dollar in order to pick up a couple parking spaces. None of this makes sense to anyone except maybe a few people too burrowed in at City Hall to see the Big Picture. The Parking and Manresa studies should be part of the Master Plan. And what good is a Master Plan if the Common Council refuses to empanel a Charter Revision Commission? They’ve been asked to do it. They just don’t want to—or maybe some want to, but not enough to get the 2/3rds needed.

Norwalk needs Charter Revision. We need a City Manager, like other well runs cities and towns have. We need to clean up and enforce our zoning regulations and realign planning and zoning. But Kydes, as chair of the CC Planning Committee, has a pet peeve, and it’s “excessive enforcement” also known as just plain old ENFORCEMENT. That’s Norwalk shooting itself in the foot. And if the voters return these people to the CC without at least a strong rebuke, we’re getting exactly what we deserve.

Rick October 7, 2017 at 12:56 pm

@ Andrew

Do you realize the Mall took back as many as 50 parking spots given to the city recently.

No one picked up on that yet GGP in tyhe past has given parking spots around that number for the cities that host them.

The city uses those spots for things like bus pick up or fund raiser spots like car washes for the kids or community based groups.

Norwalk in all the back room deals never mentioned anything like that so when GGP took back premium parking spots no one really cared.

There was nothing mentioned by the council members they must of missed the take back as well, or just Democratic enough not to talk about it.

anyone else see the mall took back spots from the city and if so any idea why?

one thought is taing care of the dead is costing more money than first planned.

How much is 50 parking spots worth in Norwalk ?

Maybe Stantec can tell us, we pay them enough to distort the numbers.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 7, 2017 at 2:56 pm

@Rick, I did not realize GGP took away parking spots from the City. I would like to know more about this. I remember asking the GGP guys about mall parking, assuming it would be free. They are counting on that revenue, as they have in Providence, where they recently lost J.C. Penny and added more parking. Parking around here is a cheap and easy way for GGP to make money.

There has to be give and take with parking. Saraswati’s Yoga Joint has an agreement with the garage next door so their members don’t have to pay to park for yoga classes. We need—and may get—a circulator to facilitate ease of movement in the more congested parts of the City where parking is scarce and/or costly.

But let’s get back on topic. There’s no point in the City owning parking if they aren’t going to enforce parking rules, including issuing parking tickets. In NYC, parking tickets are revenue producing. I’m struggling to understand why that might not be the case in Norwalk.

Non Partisan October 7, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Public Authorities are not accountable. They have opaque financial structures and the biggest winners are the employees. NPA is only interested in NPA

The underlying problem with parking in sono is zoning related.

If you park in sono you are either a resident or a patron of a buisiness. You can’t treat the two the same way.

So here is a totally left field proposal.
-Enforce our zoning laws eliminating illegal apartments ( reducing the number of cars)
-eliminate overnight parking. Every residence should have by zoning regulations enough on site parking
– reduce parking permit costs for city owned lots for those that don’t have on site parking
– no meters after 6 pm mon- Thursday to encourage restaurant use

Bryan Meek October 8, 2017 at 7:48 am

@NP. You may be right about zoning. You are wrong about lack of accountability. The Mayor appoints each of the 5 member board and they have to be approved by the council.

However, you are correct about the NPA’s interests. The NPA and that is by design. This is much healthier for the city and its taxpayers than when under the DPW umbrella where the system was neglected by various councils to the point of failure. Evident by the article, they are only interested every few years around election time when a few aggressive parkers get upset. Often as is the case above, there are no real solutions brought forward. Only pictures and uniformed quotes expressing frustration and concern. As soon as it comes time to budget for structural concrete repairs, overtime security, or lot sweeping, see what gets cut first.

Capacity is the biggest problem right now. Not a few people who feel like they don’t have to pay and want the taxpayers to pick up their bill. Not the medium salaries with market rate benefits the outsourced provider’s workers enjoy.

Disruptive technologies are coming with driverless / self parking cars. Also the grid is up for anyone who wants to see a heat map of where to park right now. Manufacturers are already shipping vehicles that network into this information. This avoids circulation that reduces traffic. Hopefully they study looks at both capacity issues and how tech might change demand patterns.

Non Partisan October 8, 2017 at 9:25 am

In terms of accountability I had the misfortune of seeing how NPA works on a personal level

With 2 parking tickets the NPA booted my car- I deserved it.

What I didn’t deserve was being told the boot had to be returned the next day, between 8-5 and I should take a day off. . Apparently- the gent that booted the car couldn’t come back to pick up ( not allowed by rules)

Booting a car for 2 tix is Aggressive. 135 boot fee is more so. Upon returning the boot it took 3 people to check it in with no options other that 8-5.

I was in the wrong- but in the final analysis I eat diner out 3-5 nights a week. We all have choices on where we dine and shop. Why would I risk dining in sono when I can go to darian or Westport?

On a separate level- norwalk taxpayers are on the hook for NPA bonding- yet Norwalk taxpayers receive no preferential pricing at the train station garage.

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 8, 2017 at 9:33 am

@Bryan Meek, the mayoral appointment/Common Council approval process lacks transparency. Where exactly is the accountability if mayoral nominees are pre-approved “behind the scenes” as has been stated and confirmed by several sources, including NoN? How do the voters hold the mayor, the Common Council, and the appointees accountable? Vote out the mayor if we’re not happy with the decisions of the boards he appoints? Vote out all the Common Council who approved those appointments? Not easy under the current government structure. We’d have to move to 100% At-Large CC seats to come close to having true accountability on all the boards consisting of mayoral appointments. The whole process is opaque. Who even knows about vacancies on these boards? I realize this is not on-topic for the NPA, but a more general observation. And I agree that lack of parking is the bigger issue for the NPA and not legitimate parking citations that Kydes’s constituents aren’t happy about.

Michael McGuire October 8, 2017 at 10:02 am

@ Brian Meek
Interesting responses. Regarding the overall budget of $6.8 million, if $1.0 is removed you still have $5.8 million. Using this figure and dividing by the Desmond Report tally of 3,381 off-street parking spaces you are at $1,715 per space which seems….ludicrous. The math works out to having a parking system of garages and parking lots that have an equivalent operating expense of an office building and higher than most shopping centers. It’s just ridiculous and suggests taking a closer look as to why. Add in the “feed the beast” mentality of the NPA and is it any wonder we are approaching another “crisis” for Norwalk.

I’m all for parking fees, they are essential to make for a thriving downtown, but only if done correctly. A municipal parking system should be operated in a fashion that does no harm and is revenue neutral.

I was just in SoNo for business. It was appalling that the street meters were charging $0.25 for 10 minutes. I felt like I was being fleeced as I ponied up my money to feed a meter on a completely empty street. Norwalk does not have the demand, nor the vertical density to charge these fees. It’s comes across as arrogant and harms the local business.

Regarding your issue of business in SoNo doing better. If your sole metric for health of Norwalk’s businesses is parking lot use and its associated revenue you are missing the point and taking a very myopic view. It’s just a continuation of a thought process that leads to policies that are harmful to business. Did anyone take into account the two new apartment buildings, Pearl and Ironworks, before touting that statistic?

There is nothing wrong with having an NPA. There is something wrong with the NPA when it won’t listen too, or address the main issues those affected by NPS’s actions have stating for years. Your stance as a former NPA Board Member is a great example. Never do we hear our complaints taken seriously with any measure of pro-active action taken by NPA.

How do you deal with the knowledge that NPA’s policies impose a $2.00 per square foot of building area tax on the office buildings on Wall Street and SoNo? And by doing so reduce values of those properties to the grand list by 25%.

Your snide comments aside this is about making Norwalk a better place. Finally, your comments regarding DPW and having over 50% of the staff out “sick” on any given day is an appalling statement about our tax dollars at work and City management.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

About Nancy

Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.