City will pay county to not develop parking spaces for jail

Published 6:59 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling it should have enough parking when the new jail and justice center opens next year, the Mower County board on Tuesday voted to change parts of an agreement with the city, pending council approval.

The changes would affect two areas that the city was going to provide to the county for parking at the new facility.

First are four lots near the Austin VFW, three of which are privately owned. Previously, the city was going to try to obtain all of the space and turn it into 50 parking stalls.

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However, the city offered to instead give the county $100,000 and not develop the property, meaning local officials wouldn’t have to go through any trouble acquiring the land like they did with the Robbins block.

The second change would impact the parking lot near the Methodist church on First Avenue Northwest about two blocks away from the new building.

The original plan was for the city — which already operates the lot — to provide the southern half to the county for use as permit parking.

The county would then be responsible for maintaining that area, which would include snow plowing.

If the change is approved by the city, the county wouldn’t use the space now but could request it in the future if they gave the city 30 days notice.

County coordinator Craig Oscarson said some of the planning when it came to parking involved the idea of county human services moving downtown, but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.

Currently, human services resides in the Oak Park Mall, and Oscarson said efforts by the state to “regionalize” services in light of budget problems could drastically effect the local department.

For instance, a number of services provided locally could be shifted to locations in neighboring counties as Minnesota aims to save money, which could reduce staff here.

And if Mower County Human Services has a reduced role in the future, parking needs will be diminished in downtown Austin, Oscarson said.

Current plans call for between 100 and 120 parking stalls once a surface lot is completed on the Robbins block next year, and another 70 spots on First Street Northeast, which will transition into a one-way surface lot.

Additional parking will be provided at Riverside Arena and elsewhere downtown, according to the agreement.