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Council not interested in leasing parking spaces to state

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State officials will have to keep looking for alternative parking as they prepare to close the Dulles State Office Building garage for several months of renovations.

Most members of the Watertown City Council on Monday night were not interested in working out a lease for 150 parking spaces in nearby city-owned lots for state employees to use from June to November.

Instead, the majority of council members want the state to pursue arrangements with nearby private property owners. They suggested working out agreements with the owners of the Medical Arts Building lot on Clinton Street and another lot behind the State Office Building.

Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said she was not interested in giving preferential treatment to state employees.

“They’re asking for exclusivity,” she said. “Then it’s not public parking and not first come, first served.”

But Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr., who supported working out an agreement with the state, voiced concerns the state employees will mostly head toward the popular Stone Street lot and take spots from business owners and others who have used the spaces for years.

“It’s going to be a free-for-all,” he said.

Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, said the state had already started talking to private property owners, but he did not know the status of those talks.

The Stone Street lot, the closest to the State Office Building, was used by the state when the garage went through a renovation in 1994. At the time, the state paid $36,000, or about $15 per space per month. But that lot is used more now than ever before, city officials said.

Council members said they would be more willing to lease spaces at the J.B. Wise lot, near Public Square, because it has spaces available, but council members doubted that state employees would walk from there.

They also figured that the employees would not use the Court Street lot because it’s even farther away.

City officials want to discourage state employees from using the busy City Hall and Flower Memorial Library parking lots close to the State Office Building.

While unprepared to work out a deal now, council members did not rule out an agreement with the state if no deal is reached with private property owners.

In other business, the council:

n Approved the zoning change for 703-719 Washington St. from limited business to neighborhood business district to accommodate plans for a medical equipment and scrubs retail store to operate at 715 Washington St. The city Planning Board had opposed the zoning change, contending that the store would not fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.

n Held public hearings on the proposed $53 million 2012-13 budget and $1.2 million capital projects program. No one spoke at either hearing.

n Approved a new three-year contract with the Watertown Professional Firefighters Association that includes 2 percent wage increases each year.

The raises will be retroactive to July 1, when firefighters began working without a contract. The pact will expire June 30, 2014.

Under the new terms in the agreement, which the firefighters ratified a week ago, members may sell up to five unused leave days to the city’s 457 deferred compensation plan, will be able to include step family members as immediate family for bereavement and will assume increased prescription co-payments.

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