Breckenridge to outsource parking enforcement to private company | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge to outsource parking enforcement to private company

A tourist from Chicago pays for parking in Breckenridge in this February 2017 file photo. At the time, town staff said that paid parking helped to achieve the goal of having 15 percent of street parking available at any given time. Now, the town is looking to contract with Interstate Parking, a private company that manages more than 150 lots across the Midwest, to oversee the paid-parking system in Breckenridge.

Breckenridge Town Council voted Tuesday to define what constitutes "parking enforcement operators" and give them the authority to enforce town parking rules, including writing tickets for any violations.

The vote on first reading was a necessary precursor for plans to outsource management of the town's paid-parking system later this year. Town officials are targeting September for the transition.

Town manager Rick Holman emphasized the company they hope to bring in, Interstate Parking, will be paid a flat fee, so there is no incentive to charge more for parking or issue lots of tickets, he said. Because the contract is not yet finalized, additional details were not available.

"They view it as an ambassador program," Holman continued, adding that Interstate's philosophy is more about helping people understand the parking system than it is geared toward hardline enforcement.

President and co-founder of the company Tony Janowiec echoed Holman's language, saying they see themselves as "ambassadors" and "Breck as literally the most beautiful" place in the country. He also said that they look forward to taking Interstate's "solid track record of implementing customer service campaigns" to a higher level here in Breckenridge.

And according to the Better Business Bureau, the limited liability corporation that could soon be in charge of the town's parking system has a pretty good track record.

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Online, the BBB has two listings for Interstate Parking, one based in Milwaukee and the other out of Minneapolis. Individually, the pair have been given A- and A+ ratings by the BBB, with 10 complaints on record against Interstate total.

Considering that Interstate has been in business since December 2009, said Janowiec, and has the ability to issue parking tickets in many cases, it's somewhat remarkable the company has far more parking lots under its management — just over 150 — than there have been complaints filed against Interstate with the BBB.

"We're providing services to nearly 50,000 people a day," Janowiec said.

In fact, it's the company's record and good references that make the agreement so appealing, Holman said, likening the relationship between the town and the company to that of the town and its police or public works departments, where they're never more than a phone call away.

Explaining why the town is seeking outside help, Holman said, "The police department has managed parking for a number of years, and we're very proud of the level of service we've built." However, "parking has gone to a new level," and they don't want to backslide.

With improvements in technology, innovations in planning and an intricate network of downtown parking locations, Holman continued by explaining that understanding a town's parking program "now takes a real expertise." Combined with recent losses in senior personnel, Breckenridge officials were left feeling like they needed to either recruit new experts or seek outside help, he said.

Ultimately, the town saw a trend where other municipalities have been entering into public-private arrangements for management of their parking structures, and Holman cited similar partnerships in Denver, Arvada and Aurora, as influencing Breckenridge's decision to go a similar route.

The town then put out a call for private companies to manage its paid-parking program and received four responses, Holman said. They interviewed all four, and Interstate emerged as the top choice.

It didn't hurt Interstate that the company is already managing parking at Beaver Run, Holman said, "so there was a benefit to having some continuity with having one vendor do it."

Interstate had been pursuing the Colorado market for more than five years, Janowiec said, and the company opened an office in-state in July 2016. It now has a 24-hour helpline, and will staff Breckenridge locations 24/7 once the agreement is complete.

According to its website, Interstate currently oversees scores of parking lots, ramps and garages in Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Paul, along with two in Indianapolis, two more in Denver and almost a dozen more city-owned lots in Fargo, North Dakota.

Interstate was also awarded a contract to run the city's off-street parking program in Duluth, Minnesota. At the time, the deal came with promises of streamlining the parking program, while making it more user-friendly and increasing revenue for the city, according a report from the Duluth News Tribune in September 2013, shortly after the agreement between the city and Interstate was finalized.

Shortly after inking the contract, new kiosks that accepted debit and credit cards went in, and Duluth began taking parking payments via smartphone apps.

It seems about the only difference from the system that already exists in Breckenridge is that, here, the kiosks are solar powered.

Additionally, since Duluth signed its contract with Interstate, the biggest parking story in the news there has been about a police crackdown on college kids parking cars, sometimes six or more, on the same home's front lawn. Otherwise, Duluth's biggest parking issues have gone largely quiet.

Holman said that city officials in Fargo also gave Intestate a favorable reference and noted Fargo has chosen to renew its contract with the company.

Tuesday's vote was unanimous, and all council members were in attendance.

There were few other items on Tuesday's agenda, and public comments dominated the meeting.

In other business

Mayor Eric Mamula thanked fire crews for doing "an exemplary job of making sure our town didn't burn down" in the Peak 2 fire that flared up last week and other fires. "We got lucky with the wind, but we got lucky that we had such great response here in the county," Mamula said, adding that the town would likely issue a more formal proclamation in the coming weeks, but council wanted to express their gratitude now.

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