Town of Normal losing revenue on parking structures due to pandemic

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NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Parking structures were a cause for debate Monday night at Normal’s town council meeting.

Councilmember Stan Nord questioned the fees and said the town has constantly been losing money for reimbursing the managing fee managing company.

At the Uptown Normal parking structures, parking is free for the first hour with any additional time costing $1 per hour. However, for the past year, the Town of Normal has seen a loss of revenue for the town specifically at this structure.

Monday night at the council meeting and Tuesday on social media, trustee Stan Nord said the town needed to reconsider charging parking fees altogether at town-owned garages after the town paid more than $8,000 in loss of revenue reimbursements to Heartland Parking Inc.

“The total is $56,000 that we’ve lost to collecting parking fees. So if it costs us more to collect, we need to look at this because that’s an overall net loss,” Nord said.

The town reimburses Heartland Parking, which manages the fee collection. But the money used to pay is not being made on the structures. Nord said parking fees should cost nothing to taxpayers.

“Taxpayers lose. All this money comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket. Any money that we don’t receive because of parking, taxpayers are paying to cover that,” Nord said. “If we reduce the expense anyway, then it’s a net gain all-around, but we have to look into it. We have to have this conversation.”

Town of Normal Communications Director Cathy Oloffson said fees exist for maintenance as well as deterring students from filling the decks, thus avoiding a fee elsewhere.

“Those are costs that are fixed costs. They don’t go away. We want to make sure the decks are clean, they’re safe and well lit and the fees that we collect help offset those operational costs,” Oloffson said.

Oloffson said COVID-19 primarily caused a loss of people utilizing the Uptown parking and in non-COVID years, the town breaks even, keeping taxpayers’ money from reimbursing Heartland Parking.

“We are starting to see traffic into Uptown Station pick-up. For many months, in the early part of the year, Amtrak wasn’t running a full train schedule and so those numbers are reflected in what has been shared up to this point,” Oloffson said.

Oloffson also said the Town doesn’t operate parking decks as a revenue maker, but purely as a place for residents and visitors to park their cars and “dine, shop and play” in Uptown.

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