Annapolis officials ended a monthlong controversy over managing the city's off-street parking by awarding the contract Friday to Towne Park Ltd., a local valet parking company that submitted the lowest bid.
Towne Park will take over managing the city's parking lots, the Noah Hillman Garage and the Gotts Court Garage, a multilevel parking structure under construction off Calvert Street.
In announcing the contract, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins noted it would save city taxpayers nearly $80,00 a year.
"This is significant to anyone who understands and appreciates the city's budget situation and is consistent with this administration's view toward prudent fiscal responsibility," Hopkins said in a statement Friday.
Employees of Park America Inc., a Philadelphia-based company that ran the city's off-street parking for more than a decade, were upset by the news. Many of the 25 unionized parking attendants fear they will lose wagesand health benefits if they're hired by Towne Park Ltd.
Last month, the City Council held up the contract after Park America employeespleaded to save their jobs.
But the council eventually took no action on the contract, only urging the administration to take a secondlook before awarding it.
City administrators structured the bid to save the most money after they discovered Park America's last contract with Annapolis had lapsed more than two years earlier. Critics ofHopkins' administration charged at the time that the city had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by allowing the contract to expire.
Members of the city's business community were annoyed when some of the same critics later expressed concern about giving the contract toa company that offered no union benefits.
Jerry South, founder and president of Towne Park, said he worked hard to win the contract.
"We're going to continue to provide the quality of service we're known for," he said.
South entered the lowest bid, at $237,480. ParkAmerica's bid was $316,000, but the company quickly pointed out thatthe difference stemmed from higher wages and benefits.