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Cd'A chamber considers parking plan

by Tom Hasslinger
| June 12, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Parked cars, prepare to pony up.

Commuters driving downtown to catch the Fourth of July fireworks show at City Park should know that stashing their cars at any of the city's five downtown lots could be twice as expensive this year.

The Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce is proposing to lease the lots from the city on July 4, and increase all-day charges from $5 to $10. The raise would help the chamber pay for the $30,000 show because donations are sputtering more than sizzling.

"There is definitely a shortfall this year," said Todd Christensen, president and CEO of the Coeur d'Alene chamber, which has raised around $10,000 for the event. "And we recognize it's based on economic pressures, but we're still in line for a spectacular firework show."

The lots comprise around 800 spaces between the Third Street, Independence Point, Museum of North Idaho and Memorial Field lots as well as the 53-space lot at Fourth Street and Coeur d'Alene Avenue. The chamber would lease them for $7,000, the average amount the city pocketed from $5 parking sales on Independence Day over the last three years.

Christensen said that after paying off the lease, the chamber would hope to gain up to $8,000 from the agreement.

But City Councilman Woody McEvers said raising prices on anything, including parking, during a bad economy could be tough for the public to swallow. The reason people might not be able to donate to things like the fireworks is the same reason people might not want to pay more to park, he said.

"Everybody's getting pretty creative and I understand why," he said of the chamber's funding idea. "It's hard times, but it's hard times everywhere and during hard times everyone should be getting leaner and meaner."

Scaling back the fireworks show might be a better solution if funding continues to be a problem, he said, adding that he would be willing to give it a shot so long as leasing and increasing doesn't become the norm.

"I just want to see what the public thinks about it," McEvers said. "I'm for giving it a try, but I worry about the long term. The question is, will everyone want to do this? What about during Car d'Lane?"

Christensen agreed that the economy is affecting everyone, but pointed out the amount of free parking that will also be available. Independence Day is on a Sunday, so the downtown's roughly 3,100 off-street spaces will be free all day long for those lucky enough to get one.

The city expects up to 35,000 people to flock to town for the Fourth of July parade, events in City Park and fireworks show.

The chamber's fundraising took a big hit this year when a private donor who had contributed "significant" amounts in the past decided not to help out this year, Christensen said.

The proposed lease and fee increase will go before the City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room of the Coeur d'Alene Public Library.

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