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City picks parking garage firm

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City officials have begun negotiating with an Indianapolis company to take over the management of Columbus’ two city-owned parking garages.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission chose REI Real Estate Services from three companies that submitted bids to take over the management, maintenance and leasing of spaces in the parking garages on Second and Fourth streets.

The REI bid was the most expensive of the three proposals, at $146,106 per year.

The other companies responding to the city’s request for proposals were Denison Parking and Newpoint Parking, both from Indianapolis. Denison requested a management fee of $131,504, and Newpoint requested $85,754.

The management fee would come from income generated by the leasing of parking spaces to Cummins Inc., The Cole apartments and the U.S. Postal Service.

It was not immediately clear which of the expenses now paid for by the city would be included in the cost of contract.

One of the key deciding factors for the members of the Redevelopment Commission was the REI proposal included two full-time employees, two part-time employees and a longer list of services it would perform than the other two companies.

Denison and Newpoint both proposed only a single employee.

REI manages several office buildings, eight parking garages and two surface parking lots, including three garages in Bloomington, according to the company’s proposal.

Redevelopment Commission members were adamant that it would take more than one employee to manage the two city garages.

“For $15,000 more a year, we get three times the people,” Mayor Kristen Brown said.

Newpoint set its fees for the contract based on a percentage of revenues. City Council member Frank Jerome, a member of the commission, said he was uncomfortable with that arrangement because it could take away city control of the price of the parking spaces.

REI put together a study earlier in the year suggesting changes to the rental structure at the city parking garages, including not permanently renting so many spots to allow more public parking, to install gates and to hire a management company.

Mike Lovelace, a city resident and an audience member at the commission meeting, said he was concerned that the city turned to REI for the parking garage study and was now going to give it the contract to manage the garages.

The Redevelopment Commission gave its attorney, Stan Gamso, and Heather Pope, the city redevelopment director, the authority to negotiate the contract with REI.

Among the concerns were the length of the contract, which REI proposes as a five-year contract. However, the mayor said she would like it to be a three-year deal.

The city has taken a piecemeal approach to managing the garages to this point, with the parking space leases handled by Gamso’s office staff and maintenance done by parks department employees.

Brown said there would be no changes in staffing at the parks department because the cleaning of the garage has been fit in around other work.

She said state law allows the city to choose a service provider without a bidding process, but she thought it would make more sense to seek more proposals.

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