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Mt. Lebanon could take over parking authority

| Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

Seeking to save every dollar possible, Mt. Lebanon officials are considering whether to absorb the municipality's independent parking authority that has managed the town's parking lots, garages and meters for more than 50 years.

Mt. Lebanon commissioners on Monday night weighed assuming control of the authority's seven full-time employees and moving their operations into the Municipal Building, which Finance Director Marcia Taylor said represents about $520,000 a year in wages and $148,000 a year in benefits before state aid.

The parking authority generates approximately $1.6 million in annual revenue from meters, garages and fines, but it has fixed annual expenses and long-term capital needs and financial obligations, Taylor said.

"Even if we could squeeze out just 50, 100, whatever-thousand dollars, that could save some programs or services," said Commissioner Dave Brumfield. "We've already examined every aspect of the municipal budget. ... Now all of a sudden, we'd be holding the parking authority to the same standard as every other department."

Absorbing the authority's employees would mean them starting over with zero years of service in the municipality's pension program.

Certain services the parking authority pays for separately, such as legal counsel and financial audits, could be done by the municipality's lawyers and auditors with minor amendments to their contracts, Taylor said. But the municipality might have to reassign Public Works crews to clear snow from parking lots and garages, and would have to upgrade computers so its system could do things such as process parking tickets the way the authority can.

The commissioners chose to take a closer look at a middle road: leaving the authority as a separate entity, but closing and selling two properties the authority owns on Washington Road at the edge of Uptown, then moving the offices and employees to empty space in the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building. The commissioners sought more information on renegotiating a long-standing contract that gives the parking authority about $85,000 a year from parking tickets that are issued by the police department and processed by the authority.

Al Frioni Jr., chairman of the parking authority's five-member board, questioned the need for absorbing the authority into the municipal government.

"We have a parking authority that's been in existence for 57 years," Frioni said. "We're going to scramble everything around ... mess up pension plans, just so you can renegotiate an $85,000 agreement from 1993?"

Commission president D. Raja said a public hearing could be held in September on moving the authority to the municipal building.

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