Despite the Whitewater Common Council’s plan to adjourn into a closed session to discuss University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s new parking rules, many council members elected to speak publicly about their concerns at Tuesday’s meeting.
The new parking structure UW-Whitewater has implemented includes removal of parking meters on Prince and Prairie Streets and requiring permits in order to park in those spaces.
Ald. James Allen (At-Large) started the conversation when citizen comments were requested, stating that the new system to require students and staff to purchase parking permits or face parking fines on streets already paid for by the city was “double taxation.”
“For the university to take the meters off the street and collect their annual sticker, puts a burden on all of those who use that parking,” Allen said. “We shouldn’t have to pay for our own streets and pay a second time for the university.”
Allen said he believes in making the switch from parking permits from meters, the university has broken an agreement between the campus and the city that was created in 2005. The agreement mandated the university to pay $40,000 to the city for the right to charge for parking using meters; the university was allowed to keep any additional revenue from parking meters on those streets, in accordance with the deal.
Ald. Stephanie Goettl (District 5) added to the discussion as she walked up to the microphone with crutches, required for her by a medical condition.
Goettl said the university’s move to replace the parking hinders disabled students. Under federal law, she said, people with legal disability parking statuses are exempt from paying for meters, whereas now even disabled students and staff are required to purchase a parking permit in order to park on city streets.
In an attempt to give an explanation for why the university had changed their parking structure, Ald. Jimmy Schulgit (District 2) said the impression he received after a Whitewater Student Government meeting Monday is that one of the reasons the university made the changes includes a $300,000 interest payment that needs to be paid, stating the university’s debt has been “woefully mismanaged.”
Allen offered a sharp rebuttal, stating that parking on campus had always been a “cash cow” and that if the university’s finances were in a shortfall, then perhaps the university shouldn’t have been paying a $1 million lease to operate the former Sentry grocery store building as a Community Outreach Center.
Common Council ended the public meeting by going into a closed session to further debate the issue of parking between the city and the university.