Demand grows for prized parking in capital
By Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Press Bureau | January 18,2013
MONTPELIER — It might be the smallest state capital in the country, but Montpelier isn’t immune to parking shortages that plague large cities. And as is generally true with scarce resources, competition for prized spots has turned fierce.
In a petition circulating through government offices around the city, state employees are “respectfully demanding” that the Shumlin administration “respect us and the work we do by correcting the unfairness of the current parking conditions.”
The target of the state workers’ ire: the allocation of 63 reserved spaces for the (mostly) seasonal legislative staff that keeps the Statehouse running while lawmakers are in town.
“We find it arbitrary and unfair that legislative staff be given priority over full-time, permanent state employees,” the union petition reads.
Doug Gibson, communications director at the Vermont State Employees Union, said the petition garnered the signatures of 401 employees in 48 hours.
“There’s been a long-festering problem with state employee parking in Montpelier,” Gibson said.
He said state workers have no quarrel with the legislative staff to whom the Department of Buildings and General Services has allocated the spots.
“We just want to look in the short term for a more equitable and respectful solution to this immediate problem,” Gibson said.
The petition suggests relegating legislative staff to a Department of Labor parking lot about a 10-minute walk away from downtown and making the 63 choice spots available to state workers on a first-come, first-serve basis. A free shuttle bus also runs between the Labor Department lot and the Statehouse.
Gibson said the union, the administration and representatives from the legislative branch will meet this month to discuss the workers’ requests.
“We’d also like to find a long-term solution so we don’t have to keep fighting these battles,” Gibson said.
The coming meeting won’t be the parties’ first go-round over parking in Montpelier. After dealing with parking-related conflicts last year, lawmakers directed Buildings and General Services to study the issue of parking in the Capital City.
That study resulted in an increase of the number of downtown spaces reserved for legislative staff — from 28 to 63. All 180 House and Senate lawmakers get reserved spots for the duration of the session, a time during which parking spots are especially hard to come by.
Keith Grochowik, director of security for the Department of Buildings and General Services, said he’s eager to work with the union and the Legislature to resolve the issue.
“We’re absolutely open to suggestions and improvements,” Grochowik said.
He said the parking crunch has been exacerbated by the loss of 28 spaces behind the Tax Department building, where a project is under way.
“That makes it even worse,” Grochowik said.
He said the state has sought to alleviate some of the shortage by leasing 125 spots in the privately owned Carr Lot off Taylor Street, at a cost of $78,000 annually.
He said ongoing efforts to secure additional parking should go a long way toward solving the problem.
“We’re working on some other avenues,” he said.
Parking is not part of the union’s collective bargaining agreement.