Despite what you’ve been told, even if the proposed sale of the Buchanan garage from the parish to the city had gone through, nothing would have changed. The woeful record of maintenance would have fallen to the same Mayor/President and the same Parking Administration would have continued to use the same employees. Fortunately, however, the council realized that selling a long-term asset for a short-term stop-gap wasn’t a solution and voted it down.
So, what now? In a previous post, we covered the incorrect narrative that the “broke” parish just can’t afford to maintain the garage. The garage does, in fact, generate about $90,000 in income, but has not spent its maintenance budget keeping up the garage. Starting in 2014, the garage only spent $210 on maintenance. Then in 2015 it spent $298, in 2016 it spent $569. Certainly, it’s rare to see any government agency not spend their approved budget.
Could an ounce of prevention offset the $1,750,000 price tag to repair the garage?
It wasn’t just maintenance. In those same years the garage only spent a fraction of its total budget as well. 60% in 2014, 48% in 2015, 44% in 2016, and 49% in 2017. All told, $114,198 went unspent to upkeep the garage in just the last four years. Even had they spent their entire budget, the garage would still have cleared over $30,000 a year in “profit.” If you’re curious to see the numbers, we tracked the complete income and expense for the garage going all the way back to 2003.
The lion’s share of their annual expenses went to utility costs, which seemed to hover between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. It’s unclear what utilities are necessary in the open-air garage. It must have been what was necessary to run the elevators. The power to the garage has now been shut off, but the fluorescent lights remain on. That power appears to be coming from a meter-less connection from the pole going straight into the garage near an infrequently used back door.
Where can they find money to fix the garage?
Several ranking officials in the government tell me that the Buchanan Garage is, in fact, a member of the Courthouse Complex. You may remember that the Courthouse Complex fund is currently sitting on a $7.8 million surplus. The Courthouse & Jail’s annual budget surplus last year was $2.5 million. That one year alone could pay for the entire proposed repair of the garage. No bond is necessary, they could simply write a check and be done with all this. Why don’t they?
The $1,750,000 repair estimate for the garage can be found in this recent assessment, done by Huval and Associates.