City-County Council votes to curb parking-meter-bagging program

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The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night unanimously approved scaling back a parking-meter-bagging program that members said was draining more than a half-million dollars annually from the city’s cash-strapped infrastructure budget.

The program, which was put in place during Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration, resulted in a private developer and state lawmakers avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking fees by receiving free spaces at bagged meters.

Last year, developer Flaherty & Collins Properties saved more than $285,000 in parking fees under the program, while the Indiana General Assembly saved more than $130,000, according to figures provided to the media by Republican council member Jeff Miller.

The waived parking fees for Flaherty & Collins apparently came as the result of an agreement the previous administration had with the company in its plan to build the Market 360 tower, Miller said.

“That was a tax break given that no one was aware of,” Miller said. “We’re not going to do that anymore. We need to really keep an eye on discretionary things like this. I appreciate the Hogsett administration for wanting to rectify it."

The waived parking fees amounted to $653,150 last year—money that council members argued the city’s public transportation budget needs.

The other top receivers of the waived parking fees last year were the Indiana Sports Corp. with more than $40,000 saved; 500 Festival Inc. ($30,000);  Visit Indy ($23,000); and the Indiana Blood Center ($20,000).

The proposal takes until 2020 to phase out the waivers, which Miller said will be needed because some smaller not-for-profits rely on the bagged parking meters for their events.

The proposal carves out some exceptions: it allows the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and state officials to bag meters. Certain special events will still qualify for the free meters.

Those events include the 500 Festival, the Indiana Black Expo Concert, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Circle City Classic Parade, the Circle of Lights, the Indiana State Fair, the farmer’s market at City Market, and the Indy Pride parade.

When certain athletic tournaments take place in the city, those also will be included.

The city will also be required to give the council an annual list of which groups received free meter baggings.

Council Vice President Zach Adamson gave a “hat tip” to Miller, and said “these dollars get put back into our roads.”

“This revenue will be a welcome addition to our infrastructure revenue,” Adamson said.

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