KNOXVILLE — Marion County and State of Iowa employees working at the courthouse taking up parking spaces in downtown Knoxville has always been an issue of contention. Since Second Street between Main and Robinson is unavailable during the streetscape project, the issue has grown.
City Manager Harold Stewart said when the project is complete, downtown will have gained a couple of new parking spaces. In the interim, finding spaces to accommodate customers for downtown businesses, as well as the 47 county employees and approximately 15 state employees in the clerk of courts office has become difficult.
"Those are customers as much as they are employees," Supervisor Mark Raymie. He added that the county's payroll level, at the courthouse is approximately $2 million a year.
These people often frequent downtown eateries and businesses, but also grow discouraged by the city's three-hour parking limitation downtown and the resulting tickets. Raymie asked if there could be a pass issued to county employees to try to avoid these tickets.
"Over the years, I've dismissed several tickets," Knoxville Police Chief Dan Losada said. Those who are eligible for dismissed tickets are potential jurors and others associated with service to the court system. It does not include those who are employed by an office operating within the courthouse on a daily basis.
The city purchased the former Goff and Nash building, behind the former Our Town Florist, to be utilized for parking. Stewart said parking has been an issue for generations and he is considering the designation of the Goff and Nash property as county employee parking.
City council candidate Mike Roberts suggested the county purchase one of the buildings available for sale downtown. They could demolish this building and create a parking lot for county employees. Other large employers in Knoxville do this.
Raymie, who also owns a downtown business, expressed his disappointment in the lack of ideas coming from the City.
"We have offered some alternatives," Mayor Don Zoutte said.
County Attorney Ed Bull, as well as Raymie, raised the question of how full downtown Knoxville would be without cars tied to courthouse business. Bull is curious about revenue to downtown businesses from outside courthouse employees.
"If those 60 employees don't park down there, downtown is going to look like a nuclear wasteland," Bull said.
"We have got to work together on this," Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Larissa Van Donselaar said.
Van Donselaar has heard complaints from downtown businesses about county employees or vehicles parking in front of businesses all day. She said the chamber and businesses recognize how important having the courthouse in downtown Knoxville is and how much those who work there support the area.
"The city is willing to do whatever we need to do," Stewart said. He is going to ask his staff to park their personal vehicles on side streets, to keep spots available in the public lot, across from the Knoxville Public Library, for downtown employees.
"We want this to be as painless for everybody as we can," Zoutte said.
A committee is scheduled to meet in the Board of Supervisors' meeting room at the courthouse on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 9 a.m. Members include Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik, Formanek, Losada, County Maintenance Director Cal Stephens, Raymie, County Engineer Roger Schletzbaum and Van Donselaar.