August 6, 2014 at 1:00 am

Orr to move forward with parking plan, bypass City Council

Detroit— Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is bypassing the Detroit City Council and proceeding with plans to solicit bids from companies interested in running or buying the city’s municipal parking department.

The move comes less than a week after the council voted 6-2 against issuing the proposal request. Orr went to the council last week for its approval to comply with a letter of agreement he’d reached with the city’s parking unions.

Orr’s spokesman Bill Nowling has said Orr was “disappointed” with the panel’s vote and confirmed Tuesday the process would proceed.

“This is being done to gain a sense of what the parking asset is worth,” Nowling wrote in an email. “No decision has been made whether to privatize.”

The proposals are being sought to gauge interest and secure a valuation for Detroit’s seven parking garages and its meter system.

Last week, Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown said the city wanted to gain the council’s approval so it could advance the process during council’s summer recess, which began after its formal session on Tuesday.

Brown also noted that city unions planned to craft a package to compete in the bidding.

But David Whitaker, director of the council’s Legislative Policy Division, told the council that the process had been “fairly rushed” and it should be cautious in its handling of the “very sensitive item.”

Policy staff also took issue with parts of a report by Chicago-based Desman Associates, a parking consultant Orr hired. Whitaker concluded that an accurate professional review and pending audits from the city’s auditor general should be considered before a decision is made.

Joseph Valenti, president of the Teamsters Local 214, appeared before the council last week to argue against seeking bids.

“Please give us a chance before we get rid of another department,” he said.

Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez last week said she voted no because the process seemed “flawed” and was “missing information.”

But Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. and member Saunteel Jenkins supported the measure. Jenkins said after the vote that she agreed it was a good idea to see what options exist.

Orr has been evaluating the potential sale or lease of the city’s parking assets since last year. About half of Detroit’s 3,196 on-street meters don’t operate properly.

Officials estimate it would cost at least $25 million to upgrade and operate the parking garages over the next five years. The funding is not included in the city’s debt-cutting bankruptcy plan.

cferretti@detroitnews.com