Belo Garden Site's About to Get a $1.6 Million Scrubbing; Downtown's Gonna Get New Meters

Every so often I'll get an e-mail from a Friend of Unfair Park who wonders: What the what's going on with Belo Garden? They ever gonna do that thing or what? To which I usually respond: I dunno. Because, if you recall, courtesy a fire 'bout 120 years ago, there's this little problem with lead-contaminated soil on the 1.5-acre parking lot bound by Main Street, S. Griffin Boulevard and Commerce Street, where they intend to erect the $14.5-million park partially paid for by Belo Corp., the Belo Foundation, Robert and Maureen Decherd. For months the city's been looking for money to finance the remediation and had hoped, at one point, that the North Central Texas Council of Governments would pitch in $200,000 of the originally guesstimated $2 million clean-up cost.

No such luck: According to the agenda for Thursday's Park and Rec board meeting, the city has come up with a final tab for remediation ($1,666,191), and all of it will come out of bond money (from 1995, '98, 2003 and '06). Which puts the city back on its revised schedule: After the council OKs the deal with Houston-based USA Environment, clean-up will begin most likely this month, per the council's most recent time line. Which means, just maybe, the park'll be open by February 2012.

And now, to another burning question: Will the city ever upgrade its parking meters to allow for credit cards? Well, since you asked, yes, as a matter of fact. According to a memo First Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans sent to the Public Safety Committee on Friday, the council's going to be asked next week to renew ACS's contract to operate meters and collect parking fines. And one stipulation of the deal is the installation of "500 new high-tech parking meters that will accept credit cards as well as coins." And: They're solar-powered! Looks like Dwaine Caraway didn't win this one.

And, there's this: Presently, there's more or less a quota system in place: Per a 2008 council briefing, There's "$5.9 M annually in parking revenue (ticket, meter/lot & permit revenue) to the City based on issuance of 198,000 citations." According to the new deal, there's "no minimum citation requirement." And: Ticket-writers will one day have the means to use their hand-held ticket-writers to photograph violators. Which would avoid nonsense like this, one assumes.

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