A woman feeds the parking meter on Ocean Avenue Monday afternoon. City Hall plans to purchase 'smart' meters that will allow people to pay with a credit card or smartphone. (photo by Brandon Wise)

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series that tracks the city’s expenditures appearing on upcoming Santa Monica City Council consent agendas. Consent agenda items are routinely passed by the City Council with little or no discussion from elected officials or the public. However, many of the items have been part of public discussion in the past.

CITY HALL — City officials will go to the City Council Tuesday to ask for $4.5 million to make paying for parking more convenient.

That money will cover the replacement of 6,100 traditional meters that line city streets with smart meters equipped with ground sensors, an extra feature which prevents people from adding more money to the meter without moving their car.

The new meters are solar-powered, which will cut down on the 8,000 batteries used each year to keep the meters going.

Smart meters also accept various forms of credit card and “pay by phone” as well as the normal coins and Santa MoniCards that current meters use.

Santa MoniCards were the original answer to the age-old question of how to cut down on the coins needed to park at meters. Users could load money onto the cards, which the street meters accepted like cash.

According to the staff report, the new meters will be more reliable than the old ones, and are expected to increase revenue by 10 to 15 percent without raising rates, or $1.7 million across two years.

The meters will cost approximately $612,000 every two years for operation and maintenance.

The purchase and installation of the meters, expected to begin in December and finish up in June 2012, comprises the bulk of the $7,794,090 consent calendar up for approval on Tuesday.

Rescuing Bell

Staff will help the City of Bell find property management companies for its two mobile home parks at a cost of $7,000 to Santa Monica taxpayers if the City Council gives the OK.

The City of Bell, which is recovering from years of mismanagement that became public in July 2010, doesn’t have staff with the expertise to hire a property management firm on its own, according to a city staff report.

Bell’s interim city manager, Arne Croce, reached out to City Manager Rod Gould for help since Santa Monica recently hired a management firm for its own City-owned mobile home park, Mountainview.

“Bell has two mobile home parks and they’re both in terrible shape,” Gould said. “They have no one with any knowledge of what to do with them.”

Staff would help run a selection process expected to cost no more than $7,000 in personnel time, if approved Tuesday.

This is the second time that Santa Monica officials have stepped in to help the beleaguered City of Bell. In August, Deputy Police Chief Al Venegas spent two weeks of his vacation time helping then-interim City Manager Ken Hampian put Bell back together.

That came at no cost to City Hall, and didn’t have to get council approval.

Although Bell will need a lot more work to get back on its feet again, Santa Monica will defer to other cities to step in after this, Gould said.

“Having lent Al and helped achieve professional management of the mobile home parks, Santa Monica has done its part and then some,” he said.

Putting on the brakes

The City Council is expected to approve a three-year, $1 million contract for the purchase of brake repair kits for the Big Blue Buses.

The contract is split between two companies, American Moving Parts and New Flyer Industries, a Canada-based firm. Each will get $166,666.66 per year for the next three years to provide brake reline kits to replace brake pads, drums and rotors on the buses.

Splitting the contract between two companies ensures availability and provides the best cost, according to the staff report.

Street cleaners

City Hall plans to replace three street sweepers that cost more to keep running than to scrap, according to a city staff report.

If the City Council approves the contract, the staff will buy the machines from the Mar-Co Equipment Co. for a one-time cost of $889,655.

According to the staff report, each machine costs an average of $89,000 to repair in the 2010-11 fiscal year alone.

The new sweepers will run on compressed natural gas and burn cleaner than the old machines, but use the same chassis, which will cut down on training, downtime and parts inventory.

Health insurance

The City Council will have the opportunity to approve or deny a negotiated medical insurance contract that will cover the majority of municipal employees Tuesday.

Under the terms of the agreement, employees who don’t belong to the fire and police unions will contribute 5 percent toward the cost of their medical insurance premium, and annual increases will never exceed 15 percent.

City Hall also agreed to make a one-time lump sum contribution of $250,000 to the reserve fund established between City Hall and the coalition of employees.

Finally, City Hall will contribute an additional $2.84 on top of the $142 monthly contribution on behalf of each eligible employee to the retiree medical trust, which is used to reimburse some or all of the health insurance premiums for eligible retirees and dependents.

The total cost of the one-time payment and 2 percent increase comes out to $461,250 between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2014.

Security systems

Security systems at the Big Blue Bus facility will get an update if the City Council approves a five-year, $331,185 contract to add extra cameras to the new administration building and other sites.

The extra cameras are needed for the maintenance facility, and along the perimeter fencing and gated areas, according to the staff report.

Siemens Industry Inc. provides the security surveillance system DVTel, which City Hall uses for the police department, Annenberg Beach House, Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade and the City Hall building.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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