Laramar parking lot may get overhaul

A deteriorated parking lot behind the old Laramar Ballroom in downtown Fort Dodge will likely be rebuilt this year in a project that will involve the city government and the Salvation Army.

The northern half of the lot would be sold to the Salvation Army and the southern half would be retained by the city, according to Stephanie Houk Sheetz, the senior city planner.

The proposal for the lot at the corner of Seventh Street and Third Avenue North was revealed Monday evening as the City Council continued its work on the proposed 2013-2014 budget.

Sheetz and Police Chief Tim Carmody introduced the proposed $153,100 budget for the parking system. That budget is funded by revenue from parking meters and the sale of permits for parking in city lots.

A plan to expand the Salvation Army building at 126 N. Seventh St. led to the parking lot proposal, according to Sheetz. She said the Salvation Army wants to build a 13,000-square-foot addition onto the building.

Councilman Kim Alstott, who is a member of the Salvation Army board of directors, said the addition will be paid for with donations that were earmarked specifically for the building. He said no money collected in the red kettles during the Christmas season will be used on the project.

City regulations require the Salvation Army to have more parking available for the proposed larger building. To meet that requirement, leaders of the organization and city planners began looking at the parking lot that is across North Seventh Street from the building.

Sheetz said the Salvation Army would need to provide 43 spaces, but there’s only room for about 10 on its property.

Alstott said the group would ask the city to sell the north half of the lot for $1. He said the Salvation Army would invest about $140,000 to rebuild its half the parking lot and part of the alley that is on its east side.

The city would spend about $150,000 on its half of the lot, according to Carmody. He said about 35 stalls would be created there.

Now there are no marked stalls in the lot, which Carmody said is ”basically gravel.”

The majority of City Council members present at Monday’s meeting said they were in favor of doing the project. Councilman Mark Taylor said something needs to be done to reduce the chances that someone will be struck by a vehicle crossing the street between the parking lot and the Salvation Army.