Residents turned out to Thursday night to express how they felt about a bill that aims to expand parking in Downtown Kirkwood.
The bill, which passed its first reading, appropriates $1.25 million for the . If purchased, the city would combine the lots to add 50 parking spaces to the area.
Those who spoke at the meeting were divided on the issue, five in favor of the purchase and four opposed to it.
"$1.25 million could buy a lot of police cars, or ambulances or re-paving for streets," Pat Jones said at the meeting. "I think we need a new approach, a real approach to a real problem. Lets not spend more than a million on 50 spaces. Let's think big."
Under the proposed purchase contracts, council would pay approximately $25,000 per new parking space, which some residents felt was not a good enough deal.
"How can we justify spending this much money on such a small solution," Stokes said. "We've had a parking problem in Kirkwood for 50 years and adding one extra lot at this price isn't going to change it overnight. I'd like to see a more realistic solution."
However many residents told the council new spots were the cure to a problem that is only growing. Linda Fenton, of Kirkwood, told the council that close, easier parking options would drastically increase revenue in Downtown Kirkwood.
"I don't think we can walk away from such a good opportunity," Fenton said. "People won't look for a spot for more than 15 minutes before they decide 'Forget it, let's go somewhere else.' We lose business when customers can't park here, because they aren't like the residents, they won't walk the extra distance or be willing to go out of their way to support the community. We need a way to attract outsiders."
Jim Wright, president and CEO of the Kirkwood-Des Peres Chamber of Commerce said he "applauded" the purchase.
"We only ask that this is the first and not the last step in helping along these local businesses," Wright said at the meeting.
Councilors also were divided on the issue, voting 5-2 in favor at the bill's first reading.
"We have failed for many years to address a real problem," Jaksetic said. "But our lack of planning doesn't make this purchase an emergency, it doesn't make it a priority just because this happened to come to us. I think this is the wrong decision."
Biedenstein expressed concern, citing that the money used for the purchase was enough to pay for a half-dozen street re-pavements currently being prioritized by the city.
"I just don't think we are getting a value for our money here," Biedenstien said. "If you look at the existing number of spaces on that property and our plan we are only getting a real gain of about 30 spots or so, because there are already some spaces on those properties. That's $40-45,000 per parking space and I don't think that is prudent." Biedentstein and Jakestic voted no on the bill.
"I'm only voting yes, so we can get more information on this thing," Sears said. "I'd like even more information for the next reading before we finalize this thing."
The second reading will take place at the Nov. 3 meeting of the Kirkwood City Council. Council voted to move the second reading pass the next regular session on Oct. 20 to allow more time to gather information and allow all council members to be present for the vote.
Updated: Oct. 10