City looks for cheaper options for VXI employees
By David Skolnick
The board of control approved a month-to-month contract with a company busing employees at a downtown business to and from the Covelli Centre parking lot while city officials seek a cheaper alternative.
“We’ll seek proposals to get a better deal,” said Mayor Charles Sammarone, the board’s chairman, after the Thursday vote to sign a month-to-month contract with Community Bus Services to transport employees at VXI Global Solutions, a call center at the city-owned 20 Federal Place office building, to and from the Covelli Centre parking lot, a distance of about a quarter-mile.
Despite complaints from some of its members, city council voted 5-2 Feb. 6 to authorize the board of control to sign a contract with Community Bus for $125,000 this year. That’s a 67 percent increase from the $75,000 the company charged the city for busing employees of VXI, the largest employer at 20 Federal Place.
As part of a lease agreement with VXI, the city guarantees free parking for company workers. The contract doesn’t require transportation to and from the parking areas, but the city has provided it since VXI employees started parking at the center in 2011.
Instead of a yearly contract, the board of control came to an agreement to pay Community Bus $10,416.67 a month while it seeks proposals from other companies interested in providing shuttle service or from parking facilities near VXI. The previous contract with Community Bus expired Dec. 31, and the city has been paying that monthly fee since then.
Proposals must be sent by 4 p.m. April 12 to Sean McKinney, buildings and grounds commissioner.
A sticking point has been VXI’s wanting 700 spaces. But the company has agreed to settle for 450 spots with a provision that whatever company is selected have capacity for 700 spots, if needed, McKinney said.
Before moving to the Covelli Centre, VXI had a deal with USA Parking to park at its nearby Plaza Parking Deck at 16 N. Champion St. VXI paid $189,000 annually and took that money out of the rent it was paying the city.
Lou Frangos, USA Parking owner, emailed city officials last month that he could provide about 500 spots for VXI for $108,000 annually. He told The Vindicator that the company, which employs about 700, doesn’t need 700 spots at a time because its employees work in shifts.
Also Thursday, the board agreed to spend $7,054.73 for boiler equipment and labor expenses at the former South High Fieldhouse and Stadium.
Sammarone said the city should look at “mothballing” the facility, closed for about five years, and use the money it’s “wasting on a building no one is using” for youth recreation programs.
The city has tried to sell the facility that fronts Market Street for years without success. City council approved legislation in January 2008 declaring the complex as “no longer necessary for municipal purposes” and authorized a sale.
Robert Burke, the city’s park and recreation director, said Thursday the city spends about $10,000 annually for utilities for the fieldhouse, but didn’t know the total cost of the facility to the city. Sammarone said that figure sounded much too low.
Five years ago, city officials said the city was losing about $150,000 annually on the fieldhouse.