According to City Business Administrator Robert Drasheff, the garage only has around 190 of its 312 spaces currently full. "Right now the garage is losing money," said Drasheff Thursday. "If the garage was to magically fill up overnight, we would barely break even."
He added that at $38,530 a month with only 190 paying customers, the city is paying Robotics $203 per car for the company to manage the operation of the facility. All of the spaces in the garage are monthly parking only. Cars pay $235 per month and sport utility vehicles cost $250. That, he said, does not even include insurance, utilities, interest on the bonds, and other overhead expenses. "We're planning on advising the City Council at one of the next two meetings on how we should proceed," added Drasheff.
He said there are several options available to the city.
It can sell the garage through a public bidding process, it can keep the garage and try to fill it, or it can exercise various legal options.
At the April 2 council meeting, city Corporation Counsel Joe Sherman refused to go into detail about possible future litigation concerning the garage. The City Council met in closed session to discuss legal options.
Haag: Just fill the garage
On Thursday, Gerhard Haag, the founder and president of Robotic Parking, said that the management contract is fair, and if the garage is full, it can be profitable. "If the garage is full, you should have no problem making a profit," said Haag. He added that before it was ever built, the city conducted a feasibility study that said that the garage could turn a profit. "The city doesn't know what it wants to do with the garage," he said, "and people are just using it as a political ping-pong ball."
In fact, Haag said, that he is still interested in buying the garage from the city if it does put it out to bid. On Nov. 7, the now-defunct Parking Authority (which has since been replaced with a city-run Parking Utility) entered into an agreement to sell the garage to Feldman Equities of New York and Arizona, in conjunction with Robotic Parking.
But in February, both sides agreed to walk away from the deal so the city could seek more competitive bids. Mayor David Roberts said that he is glad that the city is no longer obligated to honor a contract that was made by a lame-duck-HPA board only months before the agency's dissolution. Haag said Thursday that he is still interested in buying the building. "I would still buy the garage, absolutely," he said.
Meanwhile, a city investigation into the cost overruns and construction delays at the garage has worked its way up the legal food chain, and has triggered a state grand jury probe.
According to a subpoena issued in January, the city was ordered to present on Tuesday, Feb. 4 all documents relating to the development, bidding, or award of any contract for the construction for the garage from 1997 to the present.
Included in the subpoena are all bid packages, specifications, and documents received from vendors, as well as the advertisements for bids and the request for proposals.
The city was required to produce to the grand jury correspondences, minutes, e-mails, notes, and calendars or datebooks from all Parking Authority members and employees. Also, the city must hand over the minutes of any Parking Authority meeting at which the contract, or proposed contract, was discussed.
Robotic has blamed the project's original contractor on the delays at the site. Robotic and Belcor, the main contractor, were at odds during the construction and at one point Robotic was forced to stop their work.
But that hasn't stopped some city officials from questioning the appropriateness of entering into a contract with a company that is part of a grand jury investigation. Drasheff confirmed that documents related to Robotic were among those subpoenaed, although that does not necessarily mean they are to blame; just that they are being looked at along with the other involved parties.
"This garage has been a tragedy of errors," said City Councilman Tony Soares. "I have to question why we are doing business with someone who is being investigated."