November 15, 2011

Portland poised to sign contract for parking meters

City officials had put the deal on hold after a corruption probe.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Portland officials are poised to sign a deal with a Florida parking meter company after receiving assurances that problems that led to a corruption probe have been addressed.

click image to enlarge

High-tech kiosks would replace individual coin-operated meters in Portland.

Courtesy Cale Parking Systems

"We haven't green-lighted it yet, but we're definitely moving in that direction," City Manager Mark Rees said recently. The city plans to sign the contract within the next month.

The city is planning to spend $150,000 to purchase 20 of the high-tech kiosks, which would replace the individual coin-operated meters the city now uses. Each kiosk would serve about 10 parking spaces and allow parking customers to use debit and credit cards instead of having to use change.

The city had selected Cale Parking Systems USA after a committee evaluation and planned to sign a contract last summer, but put the deal on hold after federal agents executed a search warrant at the company's Tampa headquarters and in Portland, Ore., in August. Published reports say the former parking head in Portland, where Cale's latest contract is worth $20 million, may have been given free trips and other inducements by the meter company's chief executive officer.

Beth Anne Steel, FBI spokeswoman in Oregon, said the investigation remains active but no charges or court paperwork has been filed.

Officials in Portland, Maine, contacted Cale's parent company in Europe. The company said the senior manager involved in the corruption probe was no longer with the company.

"Our intention has been if we had our concerns addressed by them, we can move forward with them," said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg. "We've had communication with them over the past few months, during which they have satisfied a number of our concerns. We believe we'll hear from them by the end of the month to address our outstanding concerns and if we do, we'll be prepared to go forward."

"Assuming all goes according to plan, we plan to have executed the contract by next month and that keeps us on a timeline to have (the meters) installed by the spring," she said.

Cale was selected over two competitors, including Parkeon, which offered less expensive meters. The city review committee decided the Cale product and support was superior.

Jeff Nethery, general manager of Cale, said he could not comment on issues surrounding the Oregon probe or the company's top executives. He did say that Portland, Maine, officials indicated they intend to sign the contract.

"We're certainly excited about their decision to move forward," he said. He said the move strengthens an already strong presence in cities in the Northeast.

One such city is Portsmouth, N.H., which first tried the Cale kiosk meters in 2007 and now has 52 with plans to buy more.

"It's an issue of more payment options, so it's helpful especially for folks from out of town who may not carry around a handful of quarters," said Jon Frederick, the city's director of parking and transportation.

Portsmouth also reviewed its relationship with Cale after the revelations about the corruption probe, but after determining the company's service commitment would not change, decided to continue doing business with them, he said.

Portland, Maine, officials have not yet decided where in the downtown area they will replace individual meters with the kiosks.

John Peverada, the city's parking manager, said the city will work with downtown businesses in the coming months to determine where the kiosks will be located.

If the experiment is successful, most if not all of the remaining 1,516 meters could be replaced by kiosks.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

 

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