Vermont state employees gathered for a town meeting-style event to call attention to the Capital City's parking predicament. On a typical day while the Legislature is in session, many workers say they need to arrive earlier than 7:30 a.m. just to find a parking spot.
"Time and again I receive calls from team members as they circle like vultures looking for a parking space that just doesn't exist," said Diane DeCoteau, a member of the VSEA.
They say it leads to lower productivity, stress and low morale.
The parking issue is nothing new, but the addition of hundreds of displaced Waterbury workers has brought the issue to a head. Union officials say there is a deficit of nearly 300 spaces and that number doubles when the Legislature is in session. The state picked up more than 100 spaces when they added a parking lot where the old Greyhound station used to be. But some say that has barely made a dent and that decisive action is needed.
"There are many places to put a parking garage," said Bonnie Boyce, a member of the VSEA.
"Construction of a parking garage is a last choice option in my opinion," said Mike Obuchowski, commissioner of the Vt. Department of Buildings and General Services.
Beyond budget-busting parking garages, employees presented a list of incremental suggestions like monetary incentives for ride sharing, more public transportation or even a valet service.
Business owners say it's not just a state employee issue, and that the parking gridlock strangles the economic vitality of the downtown.
"As a downtown business and as an employer of over 75 people, we feel that comprehensive steps are needed. Number 1-- we need to admit that there's a parking problem," said Brian Cain of the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
"There are things that we can do right now to solve this problem, but we need to be working together to make it happen," said Mayor Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier.
When it comes to finding a solution, state and local officials say there are no silver bullets, but that small changes may add up to ease the congestion.
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