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Brainerd: Council raises fees for 3 city lots, decreases fees for Maple St.

Most of those who rent spots in city-owned parking lots in Brainerd will see a price increase on their fourth quarter bill, while a few will see a decrease.

Most of those who rent spots in city-owned parking lots in Brainerd will see a price increase on their fourth quarter bill, while a few will see a decrease.

Despite initial objections by Mayor Ed Menk, the Brainerd City Council voted unanimously Monday, July 1, to increase the monthly fee for three city lots, while decreasing the fee for one.

Fees for the Burlington Northern, city hall and alley parking lots will increase by $10 per month, while those in the Maple Street lot will pay $5 less a month.

The decision was based on occupancy and a discrepancy in the costs those parking lots bring in versus the cost of maintenance.

The city maintains four off-street parking locations available for residents to rent:

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• Burlington Northern-43-spot lot off Front Street behind Crow Wing County Food Co-Op. Some spots currently cost $10, and some cost $15 per month. Costs will increase to $20 and $25.

• Alley-36 spots along the north side of Shep's on 6th and Senor Patron's. Cost is currently $25 per month and will increase to $35.

• City hall-Nine spots in the parking lot off Laurel St. adjacent to Brainerd City Hall. Cost is currently $25 per month and will increase to $35.

• Maple Street-58 spots off Maple Street between the Brainerd Public Library and the Brainerd Post Office. Cost is currently $20 per month and will decrease to $15.

Right now, the city's revenue from those lots is $25,000 a year, while upkeep costs $31,044, meaning the lots cost the city roughly $6,000 more than they bring in. Over the next 30 years, Finance Director Connie Hillman said more improvements will be needed, included resurfacing, crack sealing and seal coating. Those costs are estimated at an additional $14,550.

The Burlington Northern parking lot is 98% full, while the city hall and alley lots are at full occupancy. The Maple Street lot, however, is only leased out at 43%.

"We're just trying to get to a point where it's fair for the citizens of Brainerd and it's fair for the people that are downtown without racking it up to an additional $30 a piece," council member Dave Badeaux said, noting the city is obviously overcharging for the Maple Street lot and undercharging for the others, based on occupancy percentages.

Menk, who leases five spots downtown for employees of his Laurel Street jewelry store, was not initially in favor of the proposal, comparing the lots to those at city parks, which are also costly to maintain but don't garner revenue from users.

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Council President Gabe Johnson said people do not go to parks just to use the parking lots; they go to use the park facilities.

"It's not a comparison," Johnson said. "A park to a parking lot are too different."

Menk still noted the parking increase would be on top of several fees and taxes downtown businesses already pay, such as sales taxes, stormwater fees per square foot of the building and higher property taxes as commercial users than homeowners.

"If you do it, so be it, but I want to make certain that you understand that you are taxing those properties at a higher rate, and you're expecting and wanting them to survive," Menk said, also acknowledging incentives the council passed earlier in Monday's meeting for the city's River to Rails project, which includes the downtown area.

"But yet you're saying, 'OK, because you're successful down there, we're going to charge you more to park your car while you work,'" he added.

Menk also noted a previous city council allocated money earned from the parking lots to fund projects in other areas of the city, such as at the Brainerd Area Civic Center, now known as the Essentia Health Sports Center. But when council member Jan Lambert suggested earmarking the funds earned from the city lots for maintenance in those lots, the rest of the council agreed, and Menk said he felt better.

As mayor, Menk does not vote on council matters except as a tiebreaker.

Originally, council member Sue Hilgart made a motion for the increased fees to go into effect July 1, after discussion at the city's personnel and finance committee meeting prior to Monday's council meeting. But after Johnson suggested tenants be given more advanced notice before their fees increase, the council agreed to make the change effective Oct. 1. Renters will be made aware when the city sends out third quarter billing statements. Those who already paid for the whole year, or those who paid for the third quarter in advance, will be invoiced for the difference during the fourth quarter.

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The Brainerd City Council voted to decrease monthly fees in this parking lot, located off Maple Street between the Brainerd Public Library and the Brainerd Post Office. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
The Brainerd City Council voted to decrease monthly fees in this parking lot, located off Maple Street between the Brainerd Public Library and the Brainerd Post Office. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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