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Sweetwater’s valet parking at City Hall may not be such a sweet deal

A woman leaves her car with a valet driver at Sweetwater City Hall for $4 on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.
A woman leaves her car with a valet driver at Sweetwater City Hall for $4 on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.

For the past month, Sweetwater City Hall has enjoyed a service that’s normally associated with luxury hotels and restaurants: valet parking.

That fact surprised Ronald Medina when he sought a parking place near the building. He paid $4, gave the valet his car key and went inside to conduct some routine business.

What Medina didn’t know was that his car was parked less than a block from City Hall, in the public lot of another building with municipal offices.

Medina himself, or any other resident who visits City Hall, can park in that lot, free of charge. However, visitors driving up to City Hall don’t know that. There is no sign alerting anyone to the availability of the nearby lot of some 70 spaces, which serves workers and visitors in the Department of Public Works Construction, the Office of the City Counsel, and the Office of Communications.

“Had I known that, I could have saved myself $4 and walked a block, which is good for my health,” said Medina, after finding out about the option. “I believe they should advertise it somehow.”

The valet service, run by a company called Park One, was an initiative by former Mayor Manny Maroño, who came up with the pilot program while searching for solutions to the area’s limited parking space, said Michelle Hammontree-García, Sweetwater’s director of communications.

But she said the free parking a block away should be better publicized.

“We should announce more clearly that a parking lot is available nearby,” said Hammontree-García. “Maybe we could place a sign outside City Hall.”

There is no contract with Park One because it is a trial program, Hammontree-Garcia said. She also said the city does not profit from the service.

It is unknown how many people utilize the service. Park One officials could not be reached for comment.

More than 300 persons visit Sweetwater’s public offices daily.

As in other Miami municipalities, the space around Sweetwater City Hall is limited. The lot adjacent to the building has 20 spaces – two for people with disabilities and eight for city employees. The remaining 10 have meters requiring 25 cents for 20 minutes.

Other Miami municipalities also are challenged by the lack of parking space next to their city halls. Cities like Coral Gables or Miami Beach have parking meters outside the municipal building and provide multilevel garages.

“I think that the service is a good option for a person who has disabilities or is elderly,” Medina said as he waited for his car. “But I would prefer it if the money didn’t come out of our pockets.”

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