It appears the city is paying part of the price for the closing of the parish-owned Buchanan Street parking garage downtown.

The city of Lafayette's Transit Fund is paying to operate two shuttle buses between the city's Vermilion Street parking garage and the parish courthouse, whose employees were displaced when the Buchanan Street garage was closed abruptly in October. The parking garage was deemed unsafe about a week after the City-Parish Council rejected Mayor-President Joel Robideaux's plan to cover a parish budget shortfall by selling the garage to the city.

Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said in an email the administration plans to ask the council in a few weeks to amend the budget to allocate about $100,000 a year to cover the cost of the two shuttle buses.

The Buchanan Street garage was used primarily by government employees working in the parish courthouse, largely for the clerk of court, and other nearby offices. Since they lost reserved parking spots in the garage, metered parking spaces near the courthouse were taken out of public use and reserved for the government workers. Visitors now have to compete for the remaining metered spaces farther away or park blocks away in the Vermilion Street parking garage, which is owned by the city of Lafayette.

ACA.dtparking.2.072319

The parking shuttle picks up passengers at the Vermilion Street parking garage for a ride to the Parish Courthouse now that the Buchanan Street parking garage next to the courthouse is closed, Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in Lafayette, La.

Some visitors, including the elderly or handicapped, can't walk that far. So in April, the city started providing two small shuttle buses to run between the Vermilion Street parking garage and the parish courthouse, Lafayette Consolidated Government staff said in an email. The buses, they wrote, were bought with Federal Transit Administration funds for an Acadiana Planning Commission regional transit program.

The mini bus route from the Vermilion Street garage to the courthouse is open to the public, not restricted to employees of the courthouse, and is supported by the city Transit Fund like all other city bus routes. Those with parking permits were notified directly of the new bus route, Toups wrote.

When the Buchanan Street garage was open, the Clerk of Court Office paid $2,412 a month for 101 parking spaces, LCG staff wrote. The money was deposited in a parking fund for the Buchanan garage. The Clerk of Court Office continues to pay $2,412 a month for 101 parking spaces, they wrote, but the money is deposited in the Vermilion parking garage fund. Those 101 spaces are allotted in several locations, primarily smaller parking lots, street spaces and the Vermilion garage.

ACA.dtparking.3.072319

Parking meters have been removed in a parking lot on Buchanan Street next to the closed parking garage, Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in Lafayette, La..

Sixty metered spaces have been restricted to permit only parking, with the permits issues to access car holders who paid for parking in the Buchanan Street garage, they wrote.

When Robideaux was trying to sell the Buchanan Street garage to the city, it was initially appraised at $770,000, but he wanted a second appraisal, saying it could be higher because of its potential with future economic growth downtown. But an engineering report cited many problems that could cost $3 million to fix.

In June, four proposals were submitted to Robideaux to redevelop the Buchanan Street parking garage. Three would involve a mix of commercial and residential space. The fourth proposed a way to fund repairs to the six-story parking garage in a public-private deal.

Four plans submitted to redevelop Buchanan St. garage in Lafayette


Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.