RICHARD HYATT: Service center doesn't seem to serve

June 18, 2013 

Welcome to your new Citizen's Service Center. Your $32 million built it so that your government can better serve you. As long as you don't park your car in the deputy city manager's reserved parking place.

The facility is barely open and already there are problems, starting with a decision to reserve 146 parking places near the main entrance for public officials and city workers, relegating the people who paid for the building to the top of a parking garage designed to hold 370 cars.

That didn't sit well with Columbus Councilor Judy Thomas, who brought up the subject during Tuesday's meeting and made it clear that she believes the first floor should be reserved for ordinary people.

"For that citizen who is hopefully spending 20 minutes in the building buying a new tag," Thomas said.

One of those parking spots is reserved for Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, whose office moved from the Government Center to Macon Road. She came forward Tuesday to answer Thomas' questions.

Instead, she raised an issue the councilor hadn't mentioned. Parking Enforcement will patrol the new garage and will ticket the cars of private citizens who use the numbered spaces.

That's strange. In a recent interview with a TV reporter, Goodwin said visitors to the service center should not have to worry about parking.

"There was a lot of traffic at the Government Center," she said, "and there were a lot of issues with people getting parking tickets or just not finding a place to park because of limited parking."

Finding your way into the garage is an adventure. The temptation to park in the school district lot or at the library is great. School officials have already complained about people using their spaces, forgetting that they all work for the same taxpayers.

There is also an issue of handicapped access. If a handicapped person tries to enter at what appears to be the main entrance -- the one with the impressive columns -- they are sent around the building to the doors leading to the garage.

Security is also questionable. In a culture that has come to accept security stops, the new facility has removable X-ray equipment that will only be used on Tuesdays when the mayor and council is meeting in a chamber equipped with eight monster-sized TVs for the public with two more turned toward the councilors.

A sheriff's deputy will be on duty during working hours, but won't be there when those working late have to walk to their cars in the garage after dark.

Council will discuss the parking issue at its next meeting, but Thomas clearly wants the public to have the best parking places -- without the threat of getting a parking ticket in a garage they own.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at www.twitter.com/hyattrichard.

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