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Inside City Hall: BOE extends contracts at troubled agency

Thanks to missed deadlines, city keeps the old contracts at four municipal parking garages.

Above: The city extended a contract worth $1.4 million to Chesapeake Parking Associates to manage the municipal garage at 414 Water Street downtown.

The Board of Estimates has given another reprieve to the Parking Authority for Baltimore City, allowing the administratively-challenged agency more time to award contracts for city-owned garages.

At yesterday’s meeting, the board approved $2,663,978 in fresh funds to extend the life of four existing parking contracts because the agency had failed to get new agreements in place by a looming deadline.

By its own admission, the agency has some problems with its core mission of “creating and implementing parking solutions” for Baltimore City.

“The PABC has experienced significant disruption in the personnel charged with the oversight and administration of this and other management agreements, as well as the procurement of new management agreements,” the agency stated in a written note to the board.

As a result, Impark/Danas Parking LLC and Chesapeake Parking Associates will continue to operate four public garages, including the city’s largest facility at 414 Water Street, under existing agreements that were due to expire on November 30.

Not the First Time

The agency’s managerial shortcomings were not a topic at yesterday’s meeting.

Instead, all five board members, led by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, approved the $2.66 million expenditure and contract extensions without comment.

This isn’t the first time the parking authority has missed a key date.

In fact, “blowing” deadlines has become something of a specialty at the agency, resulting in contracts that are frozen without undergoing competitive bidding.

Last June, the agency received permission from the spending board to extend seven other parking contracts for an additional 18 months. By failing to put out new contracts on a timely basis, the city misses the opportunity to save money through lower bids by competing operators.

ter Little (far right) with Mayor Rawlings-Blake last year. (Office of the Mayor)

Mayor Rawlings-Blake with Peter Little (far right) last year. (Office of the Mayor)

Peter E. Little, executive director of the PABC, told The Brew to email him questions about the contracts, “and I will do my best to respond.” He did not answer the questions by the deadline requested.

In the past, however, Little has said that parking contracts require a great deal of research and assessment of potential operators and their business plans.

In its note to the spending board, the agency said it has “made requisite personnel changes” and “is prepared to move forward with seeking the award of new agreements” for the garages. The first of these agreements would go into effect in late 2013.

Crisis Mode

Little has survived multiple crises since he was hired to run the agency in 2005. He came under attack in late 2009 in the City Council for approving defective software used for the city’s residential parking permit program.

Five subordinates in his office called upon Little’s ouster at the time, but he retained his job.

Last year, a subordinate was fingered by Inspector General David McClintock for allegedly “exerting influence” to secure a contract for a parking security company owned by her then-boyfriend.

The subordinate, who was suspended, claimed she was singled out for blame by Little because she was one of a group of employees who had written a letter to the City Council questioning his leadership.

Don’t Meet Minority Goals

The extension of yesterday’s contracts came despite the failure of Impark/Danas and Chesapeake Parking to achieve minority business hiring goals promised when the contracts were signed in 2011.

According to Board of Estimates documents, the contracts were supposed to include 17% minority participation (MBE) and 9% women’s participation (WBE), but fell short.

In the case of the biggest contract, operator Chesapeake Parking wound up allocating 4% to a minority carwasher and 7% to four women-owned companies. In another contract, there was 0% MBE participation in the reporting period.

However, the city’s Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office (MWBOO) gave Impark and Chesapeake Parking a pass.

According to MWBOO’s note to the Board of Estimates:

“Per the contracting agency, the contractor has shown good faith efforts. The MBE goal was not achieved due to constraints placed by budget cuts. MWBOO FOUND THE VENDOR IN COMPLIANCE.”

Breakdown of Management Fees

The PABC was established in 2000 as a quasi-public agency to run the city’s current 17 municipal garages and 23 surface lots. Its five-member board consists of four appointees by the mayor and one by the City Council president.

Here is a breakdown of the management fees approved yesterday for the city-owned garages:

• Baltimore St. Garage, 15 Guilford Ave., 510 spaces, operator Impark/Danas, management fee through Nov. 30, 2014: $977,582.

• Fayette St. Garage, 1001 E. Fayette St., 185 spaces, operator Impark/Danas, management fee through Nov. 30, 2013: $82,468.

• Lexington St. Garage, 510 E. Lexington St., 659 spaces, operator Chesapeake Parking Associates, management fee through Nov. 30, 2013: $219,514

• Water St. Garage, 414 Water St., 1,105 spaces, operator Chesapeake Parking Associates, management fee through Nov. 30, 2014: $1,384,414.

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