By BILL SHEA
Fort Dodge officials are preparing to launch a comprehensive study of current and future parking needs downtown.
The Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District board, which will help pay for the estimated $35,000 study, voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a request for proposals from consulting firms interested in conducting it. That request for proposals now goes to the City Council, which may approve it and start the search for a consultant next month.
Parking is the ''biggest concern anyone has,'' Mike Doyle, a member of the board, said Tuesday.
The study would be completed by the end of September, according to a timeline presented to the board.
''I've had questions about why we need to do this,'' said Rich Seltz, the board president. ''We need to plan ahead because as the connector goes through, the downtown will develop. It's better to have a plan in place than to get behind the eight-ball.''
He was referring to the crosstown connector, the project which includes a downtown street realignment to make First Avenue South a two-way street for its entire length. The first construction phase of that project may be done this year.
The consulting firm will be expected to complete these tasks:
- Analyze data provided by the city.
- Quantify parking needs.
- Describe patterns of use and characteristics of the parking system.
- Consider if a parking ramp is needed.
City staffers have been compiling information on the downtown parking situation, but the district's board wanted to accelerate the process. The concept of hiring a consultant to get the job done faster was introduced late last year.
The Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District is a roughly 33 block downtown area in which property owners pay an extra tax to finance improvements there.