ST. CLOUD -- After a lengthy discussion, the St. Cloud City Council voted 4 to 3 to raise the parking fees in downtown St. Cloud.  The council held a public hearing on the issue during their meeting on Monday night.  It is the first time parking rates in the downtown have been raised in 20 years.

The cost to park at a meter is doubling from .50 an hour to $1 an hour, the cost to park in the ramps is going up from .80 an hour to $1 an hour, and permit and contract parking is being raised by 10 percent.

Three people spoke out against the increase during the meeting.  Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation Board Chair Brian Myres says the parking increase will only add to the vibrancy challenges the downtown is already facing.

Central Minnesota Builders Association spokesman Steve Gottwalt says they are concerned about the general increased cost to do business and to live in St. Cloud.

St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce President Teresa Bohnen says one of the reasons they moved their offices, is to move away from metered parking areas.

The parking budget has been operating at a deficit for the past several years and the city has been using reserve funds to balance the budget.  City council members say it was important to raise the fees to get the budget closer to operating in the black.

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