July 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Orr wants Detroit to solicit proposals from bidders to run or buy parking department

Detroit has considered outsourcing its parking system for years; a 2011 report showed the city could make $22 million to $65 million annually through the lease or sale of parking assets. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Detroit — Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is asking the City Council to sign off on a request that would allow Detroit to solicit proposals from bidders interested in running or buying its municipal parking department.

Through a letter of agreement with the city’s parking unions, Orr must gain the council’s approval before a request for proposals is issued to seek qualified vendors to operate or purchase the department — and at what price.

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown says the unions are also expected to craft a package to compete in the bidding process.

“We would like to put a value on the municipal parking department,” Brown told The Detroit News.

The request is among several issues the council is expected to take up during a special session on Monday.

Brown told council members that he plans to hold a meeting Thursday with the unions affiliated with the parking division.

“This has never been done before,” Brown said of the unions and department competing in the bidding process.

At the same time, Brown added, the city is identifying improvements for the department that generally breaks even or fails to bring in enough revenue to cover its expenses.

Orr has been evaluating the potential sale or lease of the city’s parking assets since last year.

Detroit has considered outsourcing its parking system for years; a 2011 report showed the city could make $22 million to $65 million annually through the lease or sale of parking assets. Years prior, elected officials argued it could be worth even more.

In April, Orr imposed higher fines for parking tickets, calling it “necessary and appropriate” to increase funds available to the city. The hike was the first for Detroit in more than a decade. The city had been paying $32 to issue and process a $30 parking violation.

The fee changes bumped tickets from $30, $50 and $80 to $45, $65 and $95, respectively, for parking violations and late fees. The new schedule also eliminated a $20 rate for early payment. In addition, handicapped parking violations went from $100 to $150.

The ticket increases were among the revenue-generating strategies recommended by the city’s restructuring consultants.

Orr previously brought in a Chicago-based parking consultant to evaluate the parking department’s assets.

In Detroit’s debt-cutting bankruptcy plan, Orr noted that the parking department’s ability to raise revenue has been crippled by budget cuts, headcount reductions and unfavorable work rules.

About half of Detroit's 3,404 parking meters are not operating properly at any given time, officials have said.

Brown says the city has done “extensive investigation” on which meters it wants to use and has $9.5 million on hand to purchase new parking meters. Officials, he says, are waiting for a determination on the direction the department will take before it moves ahead.

“If (the department) stays within city government, we have money in-hand. It’s in the bank to go out and get the meters,” he said. “Whether there’s a private vendor or we put them in, new meters are going in.”

CFerretti@detroitnews.com