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Parking Meter Firm Bills City $2.1M For Lost Revenue From Street Closures

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Parking Meter Pay Box

A Chicago parking meter pay box. (CBS)

Dana Kozlov Dana Kozlov
Dana Kozlov is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. She...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Another week, another embarrassing detail concerning the city’s parking meter monopoly; Chicago Parking Meters LLC has sent City Hall another bill for lost revenue from the city’s parking meters.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the company is billing the city $2.2 million for lost parking revenue due to various street closures.

According to the company, everything from broken water mains to film shoots blocked off streets where drivers would normally park at meters.

Chicago officials who spoke to CBS 2 about the latest bill from Chicago Parking Meters LLC (CPM) were livid and some were even calling for the mayor to break the parking meter contract.

The six corners intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee avenues was shut down six times last year for movie shoots and free street festivals.

“Anytime that the city has to do something to the street – let’s say, a water main break goes down, or they have to repave, or there’s a street festival – the parking meter company has the ability, through the contract, to bill the city for the lost revenue,” said Mike Brockway, creator “The Expired Meter” blog, which broke the news of this latest meter deal surprise.

READ: The Expired Meter’s report

In 2009, the bill for such lost revenue was $533,000. Last year, it was $1.6 million.

“You’re going to see a bigger number in 2011 and as the rates go up, that means that they can bring in more revenue for it,” Brockway said. “The closures are going to be more expensive every year as we go forward.”

Last week, the company sent City Hall a $13 million bill from lost revenue from drivers who used disabled parking placards to get free parking at the city’s meters.

“It was built right into the contract and, just like any contract, if you sign your name to it, you have to pay up,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who has slammed the parking meter deal from the beginning as one of only five aldermen to vote against the $1.2 billion, 75-year lease of the city’s parking meters.

For Waguespack, it’s CPM’s next big revenue target that has him worried: non-profit street festivals. There are 30 such festivals each year in the 32nd Ward alone.

“They haven’t had to pay and I don’t know if that’s been some kind of gentleman’s agreement between the former mayor and CPM, but it looks like this is something that could come up,” he said.

City officials said it assessed enough in fees to utility firms, filmmakers and others responsible for street closures to cover the money owed to CPM for those closures.

Public reaction to the latest revelations about the parking meter deal was predictably negative.

“They’re making money and they’re squeezing for more and the city’s just going to hand it to them,” Jack Orr said.

“There’s nothing you can do about it. You gotta pay … what the city gots to offer and I don’t like that at all,” said Mike Stevenson.

“The aldermen signed it. We elected them. We gotta pay for it,” Caroline McGuire said.

CPM declined to comment on the matter. The mayor’s office responded with this statement:

“We did not make this deal with CPM, but are contractually obligated to follow it. We will continue to do our due diligence on every request from CPM to ensure that we are paying what we owe and nothing more, as it is our responsibility to taxpayers.”

But before Mayor Rahm Emanuel left for a two-week vacation, he said just because the meter company sent him a bill for lost parking meter revenue doesn’t mean he has to pay it. He said he is disputing the $13 million bill for lost revenue from disabled parking and he plans an investigation.

If the numbers don’t add up, Emanuel said he won’t pay the full amount billed by CPM.

CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.

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