menna-010111Mayor Pasquale Menna says Red Bank has an “extraordinary” parking shortage that is crimping downtown businesses. (Click to enlarge)

After idling for several years, the possibility that Red Bank may get a second downtown parking garage is back in gear.

Though he never mentioned the word “garage” or “deck,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said Saturday that he would appoint a committee to explore ways to address what he called a perennial problem: “surface parking.”

“Everybody talks about parking, and they all say the mayor doesn’t talk about it enough, so let me stick my neck out,” he told an audience that packed the council chambers for the annual borough government reorganization . “Beginning this year, the council will be discussing initiatives that will carve out initiatives for parking on borough-owned properties in the business district.”

He later told reporters he was referring specifically to the White Street municipal lot.

“There is no question that there is a parking deficiency,” he said in his annual address, “one that has impeded economic utilization of properties.

“We’ve outgrown what we have,” he added, noting that the municipal lots were created in the 1950s. “Surface lots are not going to carry the day.”

Twice in the past decade or so, efforts to build a municipal garage on the White Street have proven highly controversial, with many merchants in favor and residents opposed. Both times, Menna, then a councilman, opposed the plans because, he said, they would saddle residents, rather than investors, with $8 million or more in debt.

Menna, who has previously expressed admiration for cellphone-activated meter technology in use in Europe, said the committee, whose members he has not yet named, would also look at state-of-the-art technologies and “green initiatives” that he did not specify.

The town’s only existing parking deck, the Globe Court Garage, is owned by the borough but rented toRiverview Medical Center under a 20-year lease that expires in 2022, when the hospital has an option to buy the structure.

Following Saturday’s meeting, Menna told redbankgreen that construction of a lot with no debt load for the town “is the only option” that he, borough Administrator Stanley Sickels and others he did not identify had talked about. He said there are no proposals from developers or other firm plans to build a garage.

Menna said two major investment banks he did not identify declined to come into town “because there was insufficient guaranteed parking,” and that second-floor offices throughout the downtown were underutilized for the same reason.