Plans for a downtown parking deck are solidifying as the City Council considers proposals to set Decatur-Morgan County Tourism’s funding for the next four years and to hire an architect and a civil engineer.

Local developers Jack Fite and H.M. Nowlin and partner Chris Chavis, of Opelika-based PHD Hotels, announced late last month plans to build a 90-room Fairfield Inn by Marriott hotel at the corner of Second Avenue Southeast and East Moulton Street.

As part of the deal to attract the hotel, the city agreed to build a $5 million to $6 million parking deck at the corner of East Moulton Street and First Avenue Southeast. The deck would have 240 parking spaces with 90 lots reserved for hotel guests.

Mayor Tab Bowling’s plan to pay for the estimated $384,878 debt service on the parking deck includes using about $110,961 of the lodging tax revenues the Tourism bureau annually receives, as well as $45,809 of the annual lodging tax receipts that go to the Hospitality Board.

In return, Tourism officials asked the city to lock in the 64.3% of annual lodging tax revenues it receives for four years. Tourism Director Danielle Gibson said Monday that her board approved the agreement with the city, which also plans to begin charging for parking on streets around the deck.

Bowling on Monday said the Hospitality Board also approved the agreement.

The council usually approves Tourism’s allocation annually with the new budget, but Gibson said a long-term deal helps Tourism in its operations. As lodging tax revenues reached and surpassed $1 million a year, Tourism has been able to fend off occasional council members' attempts to cap or raid its main funding source.

“It just stabilizes our funding and helps us plan accordingly,” Gibson said.

Gibson said Tourism typically bids on soccer, softball and archery tournaments between one and two years in advance.

“They have to make a decision (on awarding a tournament), and that can be a lengthy process,” Gibson said. “Sometimes there’s as much as a year of planning even after the tournaments are awarded.”

Gibson said knowing that Tourism’s funding is set for another four years helps with staffing and morale. It also allows her to make a multi-year advertising plan, she added.

Scott Schoel, of Schoel Markland Architecture, proposed an agreement in which the city would pay his firm 4% of the project cost. He estimated this would be $200,000 if the cost is $5 million, but the fee would be adjusted based on the final price for the deck.

Schoel's proposal includes architectural services related to mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineering. The proposal also includes schematic design, design development and construction documents, bid negotiation and construction administration.

Schoel’s estimated timeline would begin with soil testing in two weeks with schematic design and bid opening to begin in four weeks.

A proposal from Mack Moncus, Brian Wysock and Oscar Gay, of TTL Inc., located on Bank Street Northeast, proposes doing geotechnical exploration to develop recommendations for design and construction of site earthwork and foundations by using boring to collect data for a $27,000 fee.

The proposal describes the project as a four-story parking deck with a footprint that’s 140 feet by 185 feet and requires a deep foundation system.

The company plans to start work Nov. 1 and complete drilling and sampling in about three or four days. A geotechnical report would then be submitted in about three weeks.

As part of the two proposals, the City Council is considering a proposal from Bowling to authorize an advance from the general fund’s unassigned fund balance of up to $240,000 for Schoel, $27,000 for TTL and funding for other preliminary services.

If approved at next Monday's meeting, the authorization would provide preliminary approval for funds as the council plans to go to the bond market.

The mayor has said he hopes the hotel and parking deck are complete in about 16 months. The city would then begin charging $2 an hour, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. seven days a week, or $56 a month, for parking not only in the deck but also along Second Avenue and East Moulton Street. 

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