Downtown Decatur traffic study underway; officials question funding

Downtown Decatur traffic study underway; officials question funding

DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Downtown Decatur continues to evolve as the wave of growth across the Tennessee Valley flows into the river city. Now, parking has become a serious concern for city leaders. This week, the Morgan County Commission agreed to pay part of a traffic study along with Decatur City.

Ray Long, Morgan County Commission Chairman, said his proposed plan to put a parking deck Downtown may be stalled due to a law that he says will cost the county $1 million in tax revenue.

Tuesday, Commissioners voted to pay $10,000 of a $25,000 parking study for downtown Decatur.

“Even before the Cook Museum opened last week we’ve been having problems with downtown parking," said Long. "Especially on court days when several judges are in court at the same time, it’s hard to find a parking space.”

Long says money he was banking on will no longer be available. He cites a local law sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, that diverts most online sales tax money from the Morgan County general fund to the local school districts beginning in October.

The County’s general fund will receive about $700,000 in online sales tax this year. Long expects that number to reach $1 million next fiscal year and continue to grow, but under the local law the commission will retain only 5%.

“When Senator Orr took our money...that puts it in doubt of whether we can actually afford it," expressed Long.

During his state of the county address in February, Long proposed a plan to build a parking deck on Lee Street across from the courthouse. He says to get that accomplished now a partnership will have to be introduced to help finance the deck.

An apartment complex is most ideal, according to Long. Though, he says, many conversations with developers have quickly ended because the cost is too high for Decatur residents. Developers generally estimate a $1,000-$1,200 monthly rate whereas standard Decatur rates are around $800.

Long says the County would be open to partnering with businesses to get the job done.

“The funds coming in to my budget has changed, but the need hasn’t changed," said Long. "There is a definite need for a parking deck here.”

The goal is a 400-space parking deck that would cost about $6 million.

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