Could Oil City Parking Concerns Push TeleReach to Relocate to Butler Mall?

| December 6, 2019

OIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) – Could one of Oil City’s bigger employers be leaving the City over parking concerns?

(PHOTO: TeleReach in Oil City.)

If Michael Prince, the Director of TeleReach Call Center, is to be believed, that is a real possibility.

Prince addressed the Oil City Council during the public comment period of the Thursday, December 5, meeting and said there is a possibility the company could be headed to Butler.

“Parking is a major, major concern for us,” Prince said. “It’s got to the point where we’re negotiating with the city of Butler to move to the Butler Mall that has thousands of parking spaces. They are going to renovate the place for us. (The parking issue) is hurting our business big time. It’s a consideration to move to Butler. They want to do everything for us and give us tax breaks.”

Prince, who said TeleReach has rarely asked Oil City for anything, said he doesn’t want to see the company move its location to Butler.

“I don’t want to move out of here,” Prince said. “I don’t want to move because I’ve had people working for me for 15 to 20 years.”

Prince, who said the payroll of TeleReach in Oil City is $2.5 million per year and who also said the company has expanded from 70 to 80 employees to 140 employees, said the company has lost 20 employees over the last two months because of parking issues.

“I can’t afford to lose 20 employees in a two-month period because of parking,” Prince said. “I probably spent $1,000.00 for each employee training them.”

Prince noted that TeleReach pays between $12.00 to $13.50 an hour, which he believes is more than a lot of people are paying. But his employees can’t afford the parking tickets they are receiving, and employees are also losing on-time bonus because they can’t find parking. And when they do end up parking illegally the fines quickly add up.

“Just for example, myself, if I get a $15.00 parking ticket, an hour or two later she adds another $20.00 on to of that one. I can pay it. My employees can’t. There’s is just no place to park, and I guarantee that 95 percent of the tickets the meter person write comes from (our) block and nowhere else. My people feel singled out.”

Prince also pointed out the company would like to expand by bringing in another 20 to 40 employees over the next six months but the parking issue looms large over those plans.

“We’ve expanded and done some renovation down there but there is no place to park, none,” Prince said.

According to Prince, he has looked at the new PennDOT parking lot and sees eight to 10 to 12 empty spaces every day there but doesn’t know what the plans for that lot are.

“I don’t know what how many they have allotted,” Prince said. “I heard they’re going to put metered parking in there.”

Prince said he has approached the City about parking passes for the Justus lot, but he has been told that PennDOT even has some passes in that lot.

“It is critical for us right now, very critical,” Prince said. “We contribute a lot to the tax base of the area. We’ve never asked the city for anything. We do the monthly passes and all we get is disrespect and parking tickets.”

Prince said he wanted to know if there are any plans to increase parking, although he said he needed short-term answers, not long-term plans.

“We need them now,” Prince said. “I can’t wait to say well when the transportation center is built in two years there will be more parking. We need help now.”

Oil City Police Chief Dave Ragon said TeleReach currently buys 25 parking permits, although some of those users currently park on the street instead of in the lot.

Prince agreed but said there were only a small amount of people doing that, and those people deserved to be ticketed.

Ragon then suggested that there spots up near the Drake on Seneca Street that are always open.

“There are about 15 up that way that are open,” Ragon said. “But people just don’t want to walk”

Once it was explained to Prince where those spaces were located he said it could be at least a temporary solution.

Councilman Ron Gustafson asked Ragon if that parking was current two-hour parking, and Rago said it was but that it would hopefully be switching over to 10-hour parking when the 10-hour meters come in.

“Right now, it’s two-hour parking,” Ragon said. “Hopefully, we switch it over to 10-hour parking. There are 15 spots open every day and nobody goes to it. We will switch it when we get the 10-hour meters.”

Gustafson then asked if the city could be “somewhat lenient” on that while construction is happening on the new multimodal parking hub.

“Yeah, we are just waiting for the meters to come in,” Ragon said. “We aren’t doing anything until the meters come in.”

Ragon also said he talked to PennDOT December 5, and said PennDOT is working on moving the cars that are in the Justus lot out of the area permanently.

“As far as parking spots, we’re working on that,” Ragon said.

Someone also suggested Prince talk to WEBCO about possibly using one of the company’s lots, but Prince is concerned about the cost.

“They might want to charge $50.00 a month when we can get them from the city (cheaper),” Prince said. “The one thing that City did for me years ago when I first brought this concern was give us some discount parking. That was greatly appreciated. My people can’t afford $50.00 to $60.00 a month. I know WEBCO. They are in business so they will want $50.00 a month or whatever That’s not really solving our problem.”

Gustafson said he hoped someday when the whole transportation hub gets built that these issues are settled.

“I know, but I don’t have time,” Prince said.

“I know, I understand that,” Gustafson said. “We don’t want you to move. Hopefully, we can work something out.”

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