Watertown city leaders are embroiled in a spat with Stream Global Services over the availability of parking space in the city center.
When Stream first came to Watertown it sought assurances of adequate parking for its employees, then and in the future. The city agreed with leases granting Stream use of four parking lots and city-owned parking garage at the companys Arsenal Street site. The original, 10-year lease expired this month, and Stream is asking for a five-year extension of the $1-a-year lease. Stream is making a $4 million investment in upgrading its call center as part of an expansion that could add 300 new employees to the 700 people employed there now. So once again it wants to make sure sufficient parking will be available to accommodate the growth.
Sounds simple enough, but city officials have voiced concerns about the parking lot to the rear of Liberty Plaza on Court Street.
When first approached about the lease renewal, city officials had problems with the timing so close to the lease expiration date and whether the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency or the Watertown Industrial Center Local Development Corp. was the appropriate agency to raise the renewal issue, a minor problem that could be easily rectified.
However, city officials have turned their attention to possible restrictions on public parking in the Liberty lot, which Stream has never enforced but wants to maintain in the renewed lease. That should not stand in the way of the renewal and an opportunity to put 300 people to work in a county with an 11.5 percent unemployment rate.
Plenty of parking is available downtown, although some people might have to walk farther to work. Closure of the State Office Building parking garage for repairs was expected to cause major parking problems for employees and surrounding businesses, but they never materialized.
How much is the Liberty lot used now by the public? What inconvenience would the restrictions cause the public? What accommodations could be made by Stream, a 24-hour operation with employees distributed among multiple shifts?
The City Council, the development agencies and Stream ought to be able to sit down together and resolve it for the good of everyone rather than stand in the way of an expansion because we cant figure out a simple parking problem.