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Monroe parking study gets green light
Editor's note: The following information has been upated from the originally published version to reflect the correct vote total.

MONROE - A parking study that not only eyes the controversial dilapidated municipal ramp but all downtown parking needs is about to go out for bid.

On Tuesday the Monroe Common Council voted 9-0 to do so, with alderpersons Reid Stangel and Brooke Bauman voting against a second motion to keep the ramp, which they consider dangerous, remaining open during the process.

"I won't park there," said Bauman after a report was presented by Martin Shanks, the city's assistant administrator who in February was given orders to direct a hopeful solution to the long-time issue.

Stangel said a study could help finally solve the city's dilemma.

"Whether we need the ramp or not should come from this," he said.

Shanks said the city's insurance policy on the ramp, which has 40 of its 232 stalls deemed unsafe, according to Public Works Director Colin Simpson, will only cover an incident up to $50,000 in liability through four occurrences.

Shanks also noted the council has known of such risks since a 1998 study "without taking any corrective measures."

Other aldermen voiced frustration that the study they approved Tuesday actually was shot down at the committee level by a 3-2 vote two-plus years ago - at a cost of $30,00 then - and thus never got in the council's hands.

"We just lost 2 1/2 years on this," said Alderman Charles Koch.

The council's vote approved the idea that the ramp's shaky structure is a secondary issue.

"If the study of parking shows the ramp is beneficial, the study of the structure can come next," Koch added.

Simpson agreed, describing the ramp's current condition as "highly unlikely of catastrophic failure."

In the meantime, he told Mayor Bill Ross his department will keep a close eye on the ramp and report any more stall closings.

"We're not shy about shutting down a space," said Simpson, who noted such decisions have come as a result of both previous third-party inspections and the city's own analysis. "The city is our first line of defense and we're always aware of changing conditions."

Simpson also supported the idea of not spending dollars at a structural analysis at this point if the study shows "it's something we want to get rid of."

He warned of big dollars for any structural overhaul. "We'd be removing and replacing (support sections) - not just filling potholes," he said.

A 2013 study estimated $1.6 million would be needed to salvage the ramp by bringing it up to code. A new ramp was estimated at more than $3 million.

Stangel pushed the razing of the structure throughout the meeting.

"Let's just tear that thing down soon. Safety is a concern so why even take the chance?" he said. "Then it forces us to make a decision (about the site's future) sooner rather than later."

Bob Duxstad, former president of the non-profit Monroe Main Street which serves as an advocate for the downtown, said: "To shut it down only to see what happens would come a cost" to businesses and residents.

The council agreed to keep the ramp open for now.

The ramp's spot, behind the Square's west edge along 15th Avenue between 10th and 11th streets, is considered by some as a hot spot for new development.

"The opportunity to development something there that's new or exciting is huge," said developer Craig Patchin, who is also a board member with Monroe Main Street.