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Millions of dollars in new downtown development could be delayed unless the City Council moves to expand the Park 2 parking garage, and raises parking fees to help pay for it.

Last week a split council voted not to increase downtown parking fees, a portion of which would be used to finance the expansion of the Park 2 parking garage.

During Monday's council work session, Aviation and Transit Director Bruce Putnam said further delays to the Park 2 expansion could have a domino effect downtown. Wells Fargo Bank wouldn't get its new drive-up bank to be located on the first floor of the expanded Park 2 garage, and the city's effort to build a $5.5 million downtown bus transit center will also be delayed.

"This project has been needed for 30 years," Putnam said, referring to the transit center, which is to be built at the site of Wells Fargo's existing drive-through bank.

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., secured $4.5 million for the transit center. "It's important to use the federal dollars expeditiously," Putnam said.

The council asked city staff to come back with a different plan besides the original proposal, which would have doubled the cost of most on-street metered parking spaces from 25 cents per hour to 50 cents per hour. Rates would also increase for parking in city-owned garages, but by a smaller percentage.

On Monday, Deputy City Administrator Bruce McCandless said different options for parking prices will be presented for the council's consideration next Monday. Those could include how much money would be raised by increasing metered parking rates from 25 cents per hour to 35 cents per hour rather than doubling the fees. Ideas on how the city can collect more money by fining habitual parking violators will also be presented, he said.

McCandless said the city must collect an additional $300,000 from parking fees in order to pay for bonds that would finance the Park 2 expansion.

The proposal to expand Park 2 has gone to bid twice. The first bids were rejected as too expensive. But the second bid came in at $1.6 million over budget.

The city has the money to pay for the project, but it would draw down reserves in the parking fund, McCandless said.

The Park 2 proposal and the new parking fees are both on the council's agenda next Monday.

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