A Main Street parking station, which has been the focus of debate, will now be operated by the city of Royal Oak during the Arts, Beats & Eats (ABE) festival this weekend.
The city has a lease agreement with the owners of two former Jim Fresard sites - one at 400 N. Main Street and the other near Lincoln and the railroad tracks - to operate the properties as parking stations during the four-day festival, according to City Manager Don Johnson. The city will pay 25 percent of the gross revenue to the owner and use the remainder to help offset city costs, such as police and fire protection during the Labor Day weekend event.
This past Monday, Johnson was contacted by owners of the Fresard lots.
"They offered me the two lots and we signed an agreement on Monday afternoon," Johnson said. "I'm not sure what happened on the back-end between (Jim) Rasor and North Main. They are telling me they didn't have a written contract with them just a verbal."
With the lot opening up to the city so close to the event, school and other volunteer organizations were not available to man the lot.
"Employees of Park Rite will run the lot for us," Johnson said.
The former Fresard properties became the focus of a last Friday after it was learned Commissioner Jim Rasor applied for an ABE parking station licenses for sites. The to determine whether Rasor’s actions constitute a conflict interest or an ethics violation.
Rasor and Johnson have not met on or discussed the issue, though phone calls between the two have been made.
"Originally, when we tried to get that lot we were told it was already rented," Johnson said. "We learned it was rented by Commissioner Rasor, and we learned he had submitted applications for parking stations on those locations."
That caused the commotion that started an independent investigation to look into any conflict of interest problems. The investigation is still ongoing. City Attorney Dave Gillam brought in outside counsel last Friday and has been on vacation this week.
Johnson explained that conflict of interest happens quite often but it's how individuals deal with it that either solves or creates the problem.
"Rasor did previously have a parking station license on his own property where his law firm is," Johnson said. "And when they changed the parking station ordinance a few months back, he recused himself from that conversation because he did have a conflict."
Johnson said that on occasions where recycling is before the city, Mayor Ellison recuses himself from those dealings as well.
"The thing that is awkward here is that I have a city commissioner doing something that is directly competing with what I'm trying to do on behalf of the city," he said. "We rely on what we bring in on parking revenue to pay our costs related to the event. That's what pays our cops and our firemen working the event."
According to Johnson the city does not get any monies back from private parking lots around the city during Arts, Beats & Eats type events.
"It's a huge event and it costs us quite a bit of money to do it but so far the first two years, what we've run in parking (revenue) has paid for it."