Address Flaws In Garage Plan

The sooner Wheeling officials tear up the infamous MOU — memorandum of understanding — on a proposed new downtown parking garage, the better. For city residents and businesses to go along with anything remotely like the MOU would be unthinkable.

A concrete proposal on the parking garage needs to be put before the public swiftly. As we have reported, the developer planning to remodel the old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building has said his crews will be ready to start work within weeks — and he wants a commitment that the city will erect the garage so tenants in the apartment tower will have a place to park their cars.

City officials have said the MOU is merely a draft to which no one has agreed formally. Obviously, however, plans outlined in the document were being considered seriously, or they would not have been committed to writing.

Provisions of the memorandum, involving the city and two owners of property across the street from the Wheeling-Pitt building, should never have been considered. It has one fatal flaw, calling for the new garage to be built on land leased from the two property owners. In exchange, they would receive payments from the city of $15,000 a month.

Spending $11 million to build a parking garage on land taxpayers do not own makes no sense at all.

It has been suggested that, instead of constructing a new public safety headquarters building, another big plan on city officials’ minds, new space might be rented at an existing structure. Officials have said they do not think it appropriate for the city to rent such space.

Why, then, was there any consideration of placing the garage on rented land?

Also of concern is what little city officials have said about finances. Revenue from the garage, with up to 500 parking spaces, would cover the lease payments, they have commented. Even that is far from a given.

But what about the cost of building, operating and maintaining the garage? From where would the money come for that? Would it divert municipal revenue now used for other purposes?

Almost undoubtedly, it would. So, what would city residents have to give up in exchange for the garage? A major chunk of the street repaving program?

City officials are running out of time to come up with acceptable answers to those questions and more. Wheeling residents and business people will need time to digest whatever proposal is made for the garage — and pushing forward hastily with it would not be wise.

COMMENTS