With everyone participating or watching from home or some other location outside a city hall vacated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Moab City Council in a 5-0 vote approved a resolution that effectively cancels plans to build a downtown parking structure.
City Manager Joel Linares will renegotiate the city’s agreement with the Utah Department of Transportation on how to spend more than $8 million of $10 million that was provided in 2018 in so-called hotspot funding for communities negatively impacted by tourism.
The resolution also terminates the design contract for the parking structure the city entered into with design firm Kimley-Horn & Associates.
The city owes about $300,000 for work done to date and it remains unclear if the city must pay or if it can be taken out of the hotspot funds.
One of the three goals of the hotspot plan was to reduce congestion. The plan was good to go until recently when it was suggested a parking garage might not be the way to provide parking relief to more businesses than the ones within 600 feet of West Center and 100 West, the chosen site for such a structure.
In addition to concerns about location, rising costs and allegations of a lack of transparency led to a rare and heated contention on the city council. At the first meeting of March, members Karen Guzman-Newton and Kalen Jones got into an extended argument over a pair of competing resolutions, but none of that rancor was present Tuesday evening.
Linares and Assistant City Manager Carly Castle and City Attorney Laurie Simonson sat down with Jones and Newton after that meeting and they hammered out a third resolution that was palpable for all.
“I’d like to give a big thank you to Karen and Kalen for duking it out at our last meeting,” quipped Mayor Emily Niehaus.
Council Member Mike Duncan also thanked the pair. “I’m glad we came to a consensus,” he said. “Now the hard work begins. Duncan, who sponsored one of the earlier resolutions, said it was important to move swiftly, saying he didn’t want “egg on our face if we accomplish nothing,”
To that end, Niehaus directed Linares to seek an extension from UDOT when renegotiations begin. The current deadline to come up with a plan is Sept. 1. Niehaus suggested Linares seek a six-month extension.
Linares said he would send off a letter this week.
Jones thanked the trio of attorneys on the city’s staff, saying their input was “integral to our success.”
The one issue that caused the most heartburn were the unproven allegations that the original deal was done outside the light of day. The resolution makes it crystal clear the city will establish a committee to devise a new plan for the funding and that it will have to abide by Utah’s open meeting laws.