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Ohio State action expected on parking privatization bids

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Companies interested in taking over Ohio State’s parking business submitted bids to the university’s Office of Business and Finance Wednesday.

Since the idea was proposed almost a year ago, uproar from faculty, staff and students about the deal has been loud and persistent.

The plan, if approved by President E. Gordon Gee, provost Joseph Alutto and chief financial officer Geoff Chatas, would turn over operations of all permit sales, parking lots and parking garages to an outside vendor for up to a 50-year period.

The minimum bid the university would accept is a lump-sum of $375 million paid up front, to be put into the university endowment. Gee said he expects the bids to be much higher.

“If we don’t get at least $375 million and then all the other bells and whistles to protect ourselves – the university, the students and the faculty – then we’re just not going to do it,” Gee told The Lantern in April.

Gee said in April he hopes to at least get $400 million.

“I think we put together a strong case and a strong proposal, and I think there is a great deal of interest in this,” Gee told The Lantern. “I hope we get more than $500 million.”

Chatas said the time frame going forward could play out three different ways. If two or more bids are within 10 percent of each other, the university will then send back the bids to the companies for a “best-and-final-offer round” to raise their bids, Chatas said.

He said if this process is entered, the second bids would be due back Monday.

The second result is if none of the bids meet the Board of Trustees set minimum, and the process ends right there.

Chatas said the final option is if one bid far exceeds any of the others, then there would be a no “best-and-final-offer” process.

“We would begin sharing that number with all of those groups starting (Thursday),” Chatas said.

In a university-wide email sent last week, Alutto said the OSU community will be updated with more information Thursday.

“President Gee or I will write again to tell you what we know about the offers. I want to underscore here that if the bids are not financially advantageous we will not move forward,” Alutto said in an email.

Chatas said he wants to have the decision made before the end of the quarter on June 8, so recommendations can be sent to the Board by its June 21 meeting. While the process is moving closer and closer to decision time, many students and faculty oppose the decision.

Paul Beck, a professor in political science and a member of the faculty council, said he is interested to see what the bids will look like comparing increase scenarios.

“If the bidders are willing to offer much more money up front when permitted to raise parking fees by 7.5 percent, then we will know that having the ability to raise rates … is very important to them.

Beck said he hopes the administration reveals all the bid information in a timely manner.

“There is a possibility that they will not tell us those amounts because they want to give the top two bidders a ‘last chance’ to increase their bids,” Beck said.

Chatas is expected to give an update at the Faculty Council meeting Thursday.

Jordyn Hornyak, a third-year in international business, said she drives and parks on campus, and is concerned about the parking rates rising, not only for students, but for faculty.

“I’ve heard many concerns about the price range in the future,” Hornyak said.

Several cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have moved toward parking privatization, but no public universities have made the switch.

Enrico Bonello, an OSU professor in plant pathology and another member of faculty council, said the administration is moving forward with this deal without regard to the impact on people.

“They (administration) are acting along those lines that they are only interested in cash flow. With disregard with what happens or what that means to actual people. And I just feel like they talk down to us like we don’t understand what’s going on,” Bonello said. “But we do and we know that this is not a smart move for the university.”

Sarah Stemen and John Bush contributed to this article.

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