WILKES-BARRE -- The leasing of the city's parking assets – a contentious issue earlier this year -- remains on Mayor Tom Leighton's to-do list.
Leighton attended Tuesday's parking authority meeting and said he has been talking with representatives of parking management companies. He said no deal is imminent and he lauded the authority's performance.
However, the mayor refused to say if he intends to reappoint two sitting members whose terms have expired -- both of whom voted against leasing the parking assets last spring.
Member Ed Katarsky and Chairman Paul Maher said they would stay on if Leighton reappoints them. The mayor said he will meet with them to discuss their positions.
We're always looking to increase revenue for the city, said Leighton, who has proposed a mix of tax hikes and layoffs to reduce a city deficit and balance next year's budget. Right now there are 15 to 20 firefighters worried about their jobs. Every city employee is worried about their job.
Leighton had asked the parking authority for a report of its expenses – specifically salaries and professional fees -- over the last five years. Tom Torbik, authority executive director, provided the information and included a listing of the revenue the authority ahs turned over to the city during the same five-year period.
According to Torbik's report, the authority paid the city $2.68 million from 2007 to October 2012. The payment breakdown is:
• $650,000 – cash contributions to the city.
• $750,000 – bond payments on the North Garage.
• $283,333 to Hawkeye Security for camera surveillance.
• $440,224 – 8 percent parking tax paid to city.
• $177,147 – improvement work on Central Garage.
• $86,757 – weekend security at Central Garage (requested by city).
• $60,000 – East Reserve Account (held by city).
• $232,533 – income over expense on East Garage (paid to city).
Frank Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, said he has heard talk that Leighton plans to take over all of the city's parking assets and strike a new deal with another management company.
Leighton would not offer any details other than to say he has been talking with some companies that participated in the leasing process.
Sorick asked the mayor why he would want to rock the boat now.
We're not trying to rock the boat, Leighton countered. We're just trying to do what's in the best interests of city taxpayers.
Sam Stanford, a consultant for LAZ (the current management company), said he will ask the company if it can help find additional revenue for the city.
Earlier this year, Leighton announced he was looking into leasing the city's 2,113 garage spaces, 160 surface lot spaces and 800 parking meters in hope of raising $20 million. The city operates the Intermodal Transportation Center and meters; the authority controls the parking garages and surface lots.
In June, the parking authority decided to halt the leasing process after it had received six responses to its Request for Qualifications -- four were disqualified for not meeting certain provisions.