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Parking Meter Firm Demanding $14 Million, City Saying No

Parking Meter Pay Box

A Chicago parking meter pay box. (CBS)

John Cody John Cody
John Cody is a veteran reporter for Newsradio 780.
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UPDATED 05/04/12 1:12 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The company that leases Chicago’s parking meter system raked in $80 million last year, but now says the city owes it even more money.

But as WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he has rejected the latest $14 million invoice from Chicago Parking Meter LLC, for revenues lost when streets were closed for repairs, or for various neighborhood or citywide festivals last year.

“Just because you send a bill, I’m not going to ask taxpayers to pay it,” Emanuel said, “It’s a new day here.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Emanuel has said all along the meter deal was a bad deal, and he is examining it.

“I have a group inside that is reviewing, in fact, the agreement,” Emanuel said.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) agrees.

“Would I like it renegotiated? Yes, I think that we should renegotiate it,” Dowell said.

Mayor Emanuel says he is also putting the meter company on notice that he is not entirely satisfied with their performance either.

Chicago Parking Meters LLC already has charged the city millions for lost revenue when streets were shut down.

For example, the six-corner intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues in Wicker Park was shut down six times in 2010 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,” Mike Brockway, creator of “The Expired Meter” blog, told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov in December.

In 2009, the bill for such lost revenue was $533,000. In 2010, it was $1.6 million, and last year, it was $2.2 million.

The latest bill comes on the heels of $13.5 million bill issued by the parking meter firm from lost revenue from drivers who used disabled parking placards to get free parking at the city’s meters.

That bill is currently in arbitration.

In what remains one of his most controversial decisions while in office, since-retired Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2008 persuaded the City Council to enter into a $1.157 billion, 75-year contract with Chicago Parking Meters LLC, a private firm operated by Morgan Stanley, to take over the city’s parking meters.

As a result of the decision, parking meter rates jumped across the city with built-in increases for the next five years – by next year, it will cost $6.50 per hour, or 26 quarters, to park in the Loop. Free Sunday and holiday parking were abolished, and the traditional meters were replaced with pay boxes that many complained would often malfunction.

While the City Council approved the deal, some aldermen later said they didn’t have a chance to give it a full analysis. Meanwhile, the city Inspector General’s office indicated the city could have reaped $1 billion more for the meters than it got in the deal.

But Mayor Daley defended the deal saying it prevented a tax increase and service cuts.