Students may face parking fee hike

Adriane Hardin

The number of parking spots on campus is about to increase.

But so are student fees.

The Board of Regents’ finance committee voted Tuesday in favor of a $36 per semester student fee increase that would fund a construction project that will add 900 parking spots to the structure.

The proposal will now go to the Board of Regents for a final vote on May 9.

If approved, the project could begin immediately, but it won’t be completed for the fall semester.

The project will cost $10 million, said Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and campus services. Western will pay for construction via state bonds that total $10 million.

“We have to generate enough money to pay off that bond in twenty years,” Tice said.

He said the $36 student fee will be in effect until the bond is paid off. At that time, Tice said, administrators could reconsider how to allocate that fee.

Student Government Association passed a resolution this semester that supported a $36 fee increase if the parking structure was rezoned to accommodate all student permits next year.

SGA President Jamie Sears, a member of the parking committee, said she is confidant that the structure will be open to all permits next year.

“We can’t ask for a better location,” Sears said last week. “If we can get it through (Tuesday’s) board meeting, construction can begin immediately, and this time next year, we could be looking at new parking spots.”

The addition of 900 spots would give the structure a total of 1,900 spots. Tice said the structure would be open to all permits except faculty and staff.

“Half of it will be dedicated to residence halls and half to commuters,” Tice said. “Only students will be in the parking structure.”

Tice said the parking and transportation committee will be responsible for making decisions about zoning after the structure reopens.

Finance committee member Robert Dietle was the only member to vote against the proposal.

Dietle said the additional spaces in the structure would affect only a few students but would be paid for by all students.

“I think that there is something inherently unfair about making all students pay a parking fee that will affect only a few,” Dietle said.

He said that the additional spots will hardly make a dent in parking for commuter students.

Dietle said he believed the students who would benefit from the structure should be the ones to pay for it.

He said that SGA’s support of the fee carried a great deal of weight.

“If students don’t like that $36 parking fee, they should talk to SGA,” Dietle said.

Sears said students seemed in favor of the fee.

“I’ve held a couple of focus groups with SGA members, and then we presented it to SGA as a whole, and their sentiment has been very in favor of it,” she said.

In addition to adding 900 spots to the parking structure, other changes could occur near the structure.

If approved, Dogwood Lane would be partially closed because the addition to the structure could be rerouted. Tice said Dogwood could be moved between Gilbert Hall and the steam plant. He said it would be a narrow, two-lane road.

Facilities management offices may also be moved to a new location across the railroad tracks from Diddle Arena.

Reach Adriane Hardin at [email protected]