By David Skolnick
The owner of a downtown parking deck is offering the use of his building to the city, which guarantees parking for employees of a nearby business, for a lower fee than paid now.
But the city isn’t interested in Lou Frangos’ proposal to have VXI Global Solutions workers park at his Plaza Parking Deck at 16 N. Champion St. at an annual cost of $108,000. USA Parking Systems Inc. was the only company to submit a proposal in April that met the specifications to have 450 parking spaces for VXI’s 700 employees, who work in shifts.
The city currently pays $125,000 a year — though the contract is monthly at a cost of $10,416.67 a month going back to January — to Community Bus Services to bus VXI employees to and from the business’s location at 20 Federal Place, 20 W. Federal St., and the Covelli Centre parking lot, about a quarter-mile away. VXI, a call center, is the largest employer at the city-owned building.
Because of previous problems with the deck — structural and financial, including Frangos’ company’s losing ownership of the facility in 2011 with the building in receivership — Mayor Charles Sammarone said he insists USA Parking provide a bond guarantee in case the company loses the deck or breaks the contract. USA Parking had the VXI contract for about a year with the city paying $189,000 annually when the deal ended.
“Somebody’s past history on the parking issue is a concern,” Sammarone said. “That parking deck had problems. We don’t want to be put in the same situation as before when he lost control of the parking deck. It’s not only the lowest bid, it’s the best and responsible bid” that gets the contract. “I’m here to protect the taxpayer and do what’s right for the community. We have to be protected.”
As for the bond, Damon Frangos, the company’s vice president and general counsel, said, “I am just at a loss as to why the city would require this. The city is being heavy-handed and not practical when it comes to this issue. If the garage became unsafe and unusable, which it is not nor will it become, the city’s recourse would be to stop paying the rent and use that money to secure parking elsewhere, as they are doing now. This is a pretty standard landlord/tenant agreement that does not require a bond to be posted by either party. The city isn’t loaning us money that they need to secure its repayment.”
Also, Frangos said the city has defaulted and canceled contracts with the company.
There were problems a few years ago with pieces of concrete falling in the deck.
But Lou Frangos said his company spent about $800,000 in improvements to the parking deck’s structure, and there are no longer any structural issues.
The company needs to spend about $300,000 more to cover exposed reinforced steel, which will be done sometime this year.
CBS, which didn’t submit a proposal for the VXI contract, doesn’t have a bond guarantee. That’s because the city never had problems with the bus company, Sammarone said.
City officials had said earlier this week there were other problems with USA Parking.
Sammarone said the company doesn’t have a permanent certificate of occupancy, and Deputy Law Director Anthony Donofrio said the deck isn’t in compliance with the state building code.
Neither assertion is correct.
The deck has a permanent certificate of occupancy and it is in compliance with state building code, said Jeffrey S. Uroseva, chief building official for the Mahoning County Building Department, which oversees such matters.
Uroseva said an inspection by Cuyahoga Engineering and Surveying Services, a Mayfield Heights licensed engineering firm, shows the deck is “structurally safe” and a “safe building.”
The exposed steel needs to be covered with concrete, and exterior masonry needs repairs, but the deck is in no danger of having its certificate of occupancy revoked, Uroseva said.
“That is required work, but every building of age requires maintenance,” he said.
In a May 8 letter to Jeff Hamm, USA Parking’s operations manager, Uroseva wrote that “although the engineer verifies the structure is adequate to support the loads when fully occupied, the repairs identified are necessary for the structure to be maintained in accordance with its approval for occupancy.”
City council approved the CBS contract in February, retroactive to January, even though the company increased its contract by 67 percent from $75,000 in 2012 to $125,000 for this year.
As part of a lease agreement with VXI, the city agreed to guarantee free parking for company workers until 2015 as well as three new elevators at 20 Federal Place and all new windows for the two floors VXI occupies at the structure.