When it comes to parking issues in downtown Clarksville, the community is polarized in many ways.
One thing almost everyone seems to agree on about a new downtown parking garage is that you need one. Especially with the arrival of the F&M Bank Arena and a host of new private developments surrounding it.
But what’s also painfully clear is that there won’t be an easy way to pay for it.
Laurie Matta, chief financial officer for the city of Clarksville, told the Clarksville Parking Commission this week that she’s been warning them for nine years that, “yes,” parking is probably going to have to happen.
But there’s no possible way to cover the cost of it under the parking commission’s current revenue fund without possibly relying on local taxpayers, Matta insists.
The parking commission is created as a stand-alone corporate fund outside of the city’s normal budget process, so even raising taxes might hypothetically have to go through a scenario where the city lends the commission the money for parking.
Current estimates call for a new parking lot of sufficient size to help accommodate downtown growth at a cost of approximately $26 million.
At this stage, no specific financing solution is in play.
“Everyone knows we desperately need downtown parking,” Matta told the parking commission, “but I’ve been telling you all this for nine years.”
“The parking fund has been running at a loss since 2015,” she said, adding that the current deficit is just over $73,000.
Next year, under the current schedule, the Parking Commission will be responsible for beginning payments on repairs to Cumberland’s existing parking garage as well as beginning payments on the planned new parking garage.
The parking commission’s spending deficit at that time will increase to nearly $1 million, she said.
Continued: Plan underway for construction of a new parking garage in downtown Clarksville
“You can’t live that way,” she told the commission. “You can’t continue to provide what is needed downtown this way.”
She added that’s why the city has already considered privatizing parking lots in downtown Clarksville.
This heavily criticized option is no longer on the table.
Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said while the funding picture looks grim, there are options. He encouraged a special parking commission meeting to discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, Pitts said a site was being chosen for a potential parking garage that would be accessible primarily to Franklin Street and surrounding areas.
The goal, he said, is to have it ready for use by the summer of 2023.
It is still early in this process, but it is now moving forward after discussions with several stakeholders.
“We’re talking about making this proposal public after taking it first to the parking commission and then to city council, because they would be required to issue debt for it,” Pitts said recently at a meeting of town hall at near capacity at the Roxy Theatre. .
After conversations with Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, the county government will be “in some way” involved in the parking lot project, Pitts added.
The county initially paved the way, and authorized the financing, for F&M Bank Arena.
Contact Jimmy Settle at [email protected] or 931-245-0247. To support his work, sign up for a digital subscription to TheLeafChronicle.com.