Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The agency announced today that it had signed a lease agreement with the city, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the Port would sign the lease to begin with.
The Port will now move forward with establishing contracts with the four private companies it will use to operate and upgrade the city's parking assets.
What remains unclear is whether the Port actually worked out the problems that supposedly delayed the lease's signing. The Cincinnati Enquirer originally reported that the Port wouldn't sign the lease until it got a financial guarantee from the city that the local government would not cut future funds to the agency.
City Council had considered cutting $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funds to the Port as part of broader cuts to outside agencies in the fiscal year 2014 budget, but the cut to the Port was ultimately eliminated.
Port spokesperson Gail Paul said she doesn't know whether the issue is under review, but she pointed out the agreement isn't supposed to address future funding concerns and only sets the terms of the parking lease.
In return for the lease, the city is getting a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. The city plans to use that money to pay down future budget deficits and fund development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.
Critics argue the lease gives up too much control over the city's parking assets and will ultimately hurt downtown and neighborhoods by raising parking meter rates and expanding meter operation hours.
Update (1:35 p.m.): Added a comment from Port Authority spokesperson Gail Paul.