The state abruptly ended free parking for employees at the popular Carr Lot in Montpelier earlier this month.
State workers must now pay $60 a month to park in the 100-car lot behind State Street.
The Vermont State Employees Association says workers have complained that the state gave them little warning.
The memo was issued by the Department of Buildings and General Services on the evening of Friday, July 14, and went into effect immediately. The lease for the lot was canceled on June 30.
Steve Howard, the executive director of the VSEA, says the union is exploring alternatives with the state, including access to a shuttle from the Department of Labor parking lot, located just outside the downtown area.
In a formal cease and desist letter to the Department of Human Resources, the union said the change in parking is a change in working conditions. “Parking is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining and cannot be modified by the unilateral implementation of a new worksite policy,” VSEA officials wrote.
Chris Cole, the commissioner of Buildings and General Services, said the Carr lot had been closed during the legislative session when there is more pressure on parking in Montpelier because of the influx of lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates who crowd the Statehouse from January to May.
During that period, however, Cole said there were no complaints from state employees about a lack of access to parking.
“We didn’t see a need to rent a lot that isn’t necessary,” Cole said. “We have sufficient parking.”
Eventually, the Carr lot will disappear when the city of Montpelier builds an intermodal transportation facility on the site.
Cole said there were 83 spots available in the Carr Lot last Friday and he hasn’t received any reports about a lack of availability. In all, 139 spots were available in Montpelier the week of July 20, according to survey data from the department.
More spots are open in the summer because of vacation schedules, he said. If in September more parking is needed, his department will open up more slots.
“When you’re facing a $28.8 million rescission, every nickel counts,” Cole said.
Last week, state economists announced that state revenues were down significantly for the second half of the year. On Aug. 17, the state will hold a hearing on options for cutting spending.