Laz Parking questioned about meter problems, ticketing

May 18, 2009 (CHICAGO) The Chicago City Council Finance Committee held hearings Monday on the problems with the new parking meter operator, Laz Parking, which paid more than $1 billion for the 75 year lease.

Laz parking took over operations of all 36,000 meters in Chicago 95 days ago. There was an outcry from drivers when the deal was approved last winter since it included a rise in parking meter rates over the next 5-years.

On Monday, politicians took Laz to task and accused the company of not being prepared to take parking private.

"We are committed to providing Chicago with the best parking meter system possible," said Dennis Pedrelli, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC.

However, it seems the company that's in charge of Chicago's parking meters is off to a rocky start. Chicago aldermen accuse the company of deceptive business practices.

"You took my money and you took the money of at least 5800 Chicagoans. That's what you did. And when you knew the meters did not work, you continued to take our money," said Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th ward.

Hairston is one of the few aldermen who voted against the plan to lease the city's meters to a private company for 75-years. The deal was approved last December and Laz took over day-to-day operations three months ago.

Since then, aldermen say complaints have poured in to their offices from people who say they were ticketed even though the meters were broken or too full with quarters to take more.

"Even after finding out that people were going to have issue with putting their quarters in they kept that a secret and never shared that with anyone," said Ald. Manny Flores, 1st Ward.

"We are extremely confident this meter operation is on solid ground with a great modernization project in place and we will continue to update the system in the months ahead," said Alan Lazowski, Laz Parking.

Laz Parking was also accused of not operating with a certain percentage of minority and women-owned business, which is a requirement. Melvin Caldwell says his parking management company began discussion with Laz in December, but Laz never followed up.

"It's a bad faith effort on their part and shows extreme insensitivity towards African American firms and minority firms in general," said Melvin Caldwell, Innovative Parking Solutions, Inc.

"To date we have 29% participation by minority-owned business and 6% participation by women-owned enterprises," said Lazowski.

Monday's hearing was a fact-finding mission with aldermen requesting more information from Laz about the company's process of modernizing the city's parking meters and verification of its minority hiring.

More hearings are expected in the future.

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