Council approves lease agreement with ATA

An Area Transportation Authority hub at the soon-to-be-constructed parking garage on Depot Street took a step closer to becoming a reality on Monday evening, when members of city council voted to approve entering into a lease agreement for the facility. Council members' approval of the agreement is contingent upon changing the agreement to give the city the option to terminate the lease by giving written notice at least one year in advance. The way the current agreement is worded provides only ATA with that ability. If ATA does not agree to the change, then the contract will come back before council at a future meeting. City solicitor Mark Jacob explained to council members that even if they did terminate the agreement, they would still have to comply with whatever regulations were in place based on the funds used to construct ATA's portion of the facility. "Basically, you'd almost have to end up buying the building from the federal government or something. I don't know that that's going to happen," Jacob said. Mayor Sally Geyer inquired whether all of the kinks had been ironed out of the agreement and Jacob replied that, while it is not perfect, it is likely the best compromise that can be reached between the two groups. "As I stated many times, there are some things in there that I wish were not in there; however, in negotiating with ATA this is the best you're going to do if you actually want to go through with the project," Jacob said. "Is it perfect as far as the city goes? No. Is it perfect as far as ATA goes? No. But that's what negotiations are all about. It's the best that I think we can do under the circumstances."City manager Dave Greene added that one of the benefits of the agreement is that the city is able to use the $1.2 million in construction costs that ATA is going to spend on the project as a match to get the $6 million required for funding the city's portion of the garage. "So even though it doesn't seem like we got very much [in the agreement], we do get to use the $1.2 million for construction to go toward our $6 million, so it did help us," Greene said.