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Morton: Fix ramp, and they will come
If anyone should be anti-parking ramp, it's Wayne Gille.

"They tore down the youth center back in 1964 in order to build the ramp," he told me at the newspaper's satellite office (Baumgartner's). "That was my hangout."

Yet more than 50 years later, he hopes it won't be sold only to most likely be torn down, as the mayor desires. Rather, Gille wants to see it stay and thinks it should simply be fixed.

Even though it's so darn ugly?

"Hey, it looks a lot better since it was painted," he said. "You should have seen it before then.

"All I know is that we need the parking and a new ramp would cost too much."

A new one is projected to cost $3 million or more. Isn't that overkill? I mean, we're talking about a parking ramp.

Fixing it was estimated three years ago at $1.6 million. That's not chump change, either.

But most I spoke to say it's worth it. The consensus seemed to be that if we already have it, why not make the most of it.

"Fix it," said Taylor Bryant of Monroe. "There's only so much parking for the Square."

Tessa Brown works on the Square and she agrees.

"A new one would be too costly," she said. "And it's not like people aren't using it."

The next five people I questioned also suggested it be fixed.

An online poll in this newspaper back in January backs those opinions, as 60 percent of those voting said the ramp should stay in some capacity. The poll did not differentiate between fixing it and leaving it be, but I can't imagine the latter. Doesn't its current condition, complete with crumbling mortar and condemned spaces, make Monroe look bush league?

Speaking of image, the city is always concerned about how it looks for Cheese Days and the parking relief the ramp provides for the event seems crucial. The last thing Monroe needs is people avoiding the party because parking is too tricky. I don't care if we are talking about something that only takes place every two years.

While fixing the ramp may be a popular view, it may come as a surprise to Alderwoman Brooke Bauman. When mention of fixing it came up at the January council meeting, she replied: "This is the first time I've heard of anyone wanting to repair it."

At the next meeting, Alderman Louis Armstrong placed a fallen chunk of the ramp on his desk. It was a clever visual, and I'm not just saying that to toot his horn or trumpet his agenda. Hardy har har.

By the way, Tuesday's Common Council meeting will feature a "parking ramp direction" update from City Administrator Phil Rath and his assistant, Martin Shanks. They were put in charge of solving the problem at the council meeting last month and are now reporting back.

A more highly anticipated opinion has likely never existed. Could this the beginning of a possible solution?

I'll be there (my job) but so should you. In fact, I suspect the city's residents will attend this meeting in droves. Good thing there's a nearby parking ramp, eh?

Meanwhile, another note of interest: I mentioned in my last column how I tend to stare out my window at the ramp. Right on its edge, in the uncovered auxiliary lot, has sat a rusted-out blue cargo van, packed to the ceiling with debris, for two months. It hasn't moved once. The thing creeps me out - it totally has the look of a car bomb in waiting.

And no, I haven't seen the mayor walking around with a remote control, maniacally chuckling to himself.

So, what do we do? As a newbie to the area, maybe a fresh perspective could be helpful and here it is:

The downtown does need to be an ongoing focal point - that's just a no-brainer - although some of the low-draw businesses and empty storefronts do make you wonder. That will hopefully change and maybe parking resources will be part of the equation. You can never have too much parking. And the ramp already exists, so take care of what you've got. Suck it up and spend the loot to fix it, Monroe, and you'll again have a ramp of which you can be proud.

And who knows, 10 or 20 years from now you may really need it in a big way.

Just like the movie kind of says, "Fix it, and they will come."

- John Morton covers the city beat for the Monroe Times. and can be reached at or by phone at 608-328-4202, ext. 50. His column appears Mondays.