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Charlotte Douglas recommends new valet parking operator

Charlotte’s airport is recommending that an Atlanta-based company take over its curbside and business valet parking operations, a move that’s drawing fire from the local operator that has run the airport’s valet parking for more than a decade.

Airport officials and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have said the current valet service, Park Inc., has had problems recently with keeping the operation staffed adequately. And in October, a valet employee was arrested and charged with stealing customers’ cars and using them while the owners were traveling.

Now, the airport is recommending that the contract be awarded instead to AmeriPark, which provides valet parking at airports in other cities and at SouthPark mall in Charlotte. City Council is set to vote Monday on the new, three-year contract, which annually would pay AmeriPark $2.3 million for expenses such as employees, a $36,000 management fee and a bonus of up to $130,000.

But Brian Haupricht, president of Park Inc., said he’s protesting the move to council members. He sent them an email this week to express his concerns.

“They’re proposing to cut the staff,” Haupricht said of his rival AmeriPark, in an interview. At times, he said, AmeriPark’s proposal shows it plans to operate with one-third of the valets Park Inc. uses.

In his email to council members, he said AmeriPark is “not understanding the full scope of the job.”

AmeriPark executives could not be reached by phone Thursday.

Charlotte Douglas officials said they chose AmeriPark through competitive bids.

“The valet parking contract expires in June 2014 and a competitive process for this service has not been conducted since 2003,” airport officials said in a statement. “The airport believes that this competitive selection process for valet services will provide customer service enhancements and an excellent product for our customers.”

Staffing, traffic problems

Brent Cagle, interim aviation director at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, has said the valet parking operation hasn’t been adequately staffed, and has consequently suffered from poor quality.

Cagle cited that as one of the major reasons he increased parking rates almost 50 percent, to $28 a day for curbside valet and $14 a day for business valet.

In its proposal, AmeriPark had suggested raising the rate to $25 for curbside valet. “By increasing this rate...AmeriPark is confident we can realign the parking usage of the facility and transform it into a healthy parking operation,” the company wrote.

In March, CMPD Capt. Benton Herring wrote to airport officials to complain that the curbside valet operation run by Park Inc. was blocking traffic.

“This is an issue with the vendor not being able to manage the valet operation volume, stay within the vendor-agreed space and lack in providing enough staffing to properly keep the area clear,” Herring wrote airport officials in an email obtained by the Observer.

“It cannot continue to exist as is,” he wrote. One of CMPD’s recommendations: Shut down curbside valet completely until construction is done.

The curbside valet operation generates profits for Charlotte Douglas. In fiscal 2013, the valet operation generated $6.1 million worth of revenue on $1.6 million worth of expenses, leading to a profit of $4.5 million.

Charlotte Douglas paid Park Inc. about $2.6 million in fiscal 2013, slightly more than the $2.4 million AmeriPark could earn under the proposed contract.

Haupricht said the traffic problems with curbside valet can be traced back to the airport’s management. Charlotte Douglas is building a new, 3,200-space business valet deck off Wilkinson Boulevard as well as the new hourly deck in front of the terminal.

Construction since last year has disrupted much of the roadway in front of the terminal and led to a parking crunch, with thousands fewer spaces. Haupricht said that has boosted demand for valet services at a time when the airport has too few valet parking spaces.

“With increased volume, we run out of spaces by Tuesday morning,” said Haupricht. As a consequence, he said, the valet cars have been stashed in remote lots once the existing 3,200 business valet deck spaces are filled, leading to longer turnaround times for valet staff. “We park somewhere different every week and some of them have not been convenient to get to.”

Council member LaWana Mayfield, whose district includes the airport, said she expects council will receive a full presentation and discuss the valet contract before voting on Monday, in the interest of transparency. She also said she believed Park Inc. had resolved the outstanding parking issues.

“The few complaints that have come up have been addressed almost immediately,” Mayfield said.

Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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