A Chicago alderman says he's exploring ways to get the city out of the parking meter lease deal that's despised by commuters and city officials alike.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) acknowledged Monday that he's been meeting with municipal bond experts in hopes the city could buy back the meters leased to Chicago Parking Meters LLC four years ago under former Mayor Richard Daley's administration.
"This will be a constant wrestling match unless we find a way to get the asset back," he told NBC Chicago on Monday evening. "It would require the city to issue bonds -- tax free bonds -- and using the annual meter revenue to service that debt."
He said the bonds could be paid off in 20 to 30 years, preventing roughly four decades of meter revenues from escaping city coffers.
Commuters paid nearly $140 million to park on city streets in 2012, documents released last week revealed. That's an increase of more than $30 million from 2011 and $115 million more than commuters paid in 2008, when Chicago Parking meters took over the meters in a 75-year, $1.2 billion deal.
Reilly conceded that given the company's seven-figure annual revenue from the meters, the price the buy the meters back would likely be a very expensive one.
News of his idea comes after he said he was "very opposed" to neighborhoods in his ward getting hit with extended meter costs under a new deal Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to the City Council last week.
Under Emanuel's proposal, most areas of the city would return to free parking on Sundays in exchange for extended hours the rest of the week. Emanuel also said there would be $1 billion in savings over the life of the contract.
Just $1.5 million remains of the $1.2 billion the city received.