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CPS fires company that leased school lots for paid Cubs parking for not paying its bills

Parking operator Premium 1 also was in arrears to the city, repeatedly having been cited for violations — including for not being licensed to use the school lots.

Premium 1 Parking owner Dylan Cirkic at a Chicago Public Schools owned-lot at 3830 N. Southport Ave. during a Cubs game this spring.
Premium 1 Parking owner Dylan Cirkic at a Chicago Public Schools owned-lot at 3830 N. Southport Ave. during a Cubs game this spring.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

The Chicago Public Schools system has fired a company that had been granted the right to use school lots during Cubs games and other events this spring for paid parking.

Premium 1 Parking Inc. was behind and not paying CPS what it promised.

It also hadn’t paid what it had owed City Hall as a result of licensing issues and fines, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in May.

CPS terminated contracts that allowed Premium 1 to park cars at 10 schools.

It acted after being asked why it was doing business with a company that’s had licensing problems and was behind in paying City Hall.

Premium 1’s owner also had fallen months behind on paying CPS to use the school lots, for which the company would charge people going to Cubs games and other events to park. It was supposed to pay the school system about $13,000 a month.

As of June 7, the company settled bills dating as far back as October but still owed at least $23,000 for June’s license and outstanding late fees. It paid $13,125 June 8, but that wasn’t enough to catch up.

“The district has terminated, effective June 17, the parking agreement with Premium 1 Parking Inc. due to incomplete payment,” CPS spokesman James Gherardi said. “The termination is final.”

He said the owner “had a full 33 days after the district issued a demand letter to pay his arrears, late fees and provide an accounting, and he did not.”

Premium 1’s $11,617 payment for “license/late fees” landed in CPS’ account on June 18 — the day after officials canceled its contracts.

Gherardi said CPS will seek new bids from parking companies to lease the school lots “to ensure schools have the highest possible potential revenue streams.”

Asked about his debts, Premium 1’s president Dylan Cirkic at first said he didn’t owe CPS any money.

“I paid the full balance,” Cirkic said. “And when I paid it up, I got terminated.”

Cirkic said he had receipts and documents to prove he was current with his payments but never produced those records and later said he does still owe some money.

“The only thing I owe them is revenue-sharing for the four schools around Wrigley,” he said. “Otherwise, everything else is paid up to date.”

To settle years of unpaid taxes and fines, City Hall negotiated a payment plan with Cirkic’s company last December for $45,602. After Cirkic made a $20,000 payment, the city law department said he had failed to make any others, but it turned out he was sending them to the wrong department. He is current on his payments and owes the city $19,202.

Premium 1 had replaced Blk & Wht, whose clout-heavy owners stopped paying its bills shortly before one of the owners, James T. Weiss, was indicted in a federal bribery case.

CPS has sued Blk & Wht and Weiss, a son-in-law of Joseph Berrios, the former Cook County assessor who also headed the Cook County Democratic Party, trying to get at least some of the $366,607 — plus interest — Blk & Wht promised to pay for using school property for paid parking during non-school hours.

For more than a decade, some Chicago schools have been leasing out lots for parking. Whatever money a school gets from parking leases can be used as needed at that school.

The most lucrative lots have been near sports venues: Wrigley Field, United Center and for a time, Sox Park.

Other schools in congested North Side neighborhoods also have benefited, as people in those neighborhoods sometimes have leased parking from them.

A few schools in other neighborhoods also have made money, though generally to a lesser degree, by renting to nearby churches and restaurants.

Overall, though, the schools that have gotten the most extra cash to do with as they like disproportionately serve white students in wealthier neighborhoods.

Before the pandemic, one school — Inter-American Magnet Elementary, which is just blocks from the Cubs’ ballpark — was getting as much as $381,000 a year for the use of its parking lot and parking garage.

Premium 1 Parking attendants flag drivers during a Cubs home game to park for $40 in a garage at 808 W. Addison St. that InterAmerican Elementary Magnet School shares and that it leased to the company.
Premium 1 Parking attendants flag drivers during a Cubs home game to park for $40 in a garage at 808 W. Addison St. that InterAmerican Elementary Magnet School shares and that it leased to the company.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

For most of the past decade, the school parking lease business in Chicago was dominated by Blk & Wht.

To replace it and the revenue it brought some schools, CPS asked companies to make formal bids for the leases. That was just before COVID-19 surfaced in Illinois, shutting down the economy and forcing the school system to cancel that competitive bidding process.

Premium 1 was given contracts anyway for 10 school lots. But the company didn’t disclose it had been put on a payment plan at City Hall to repay about $45,000 it owed.

Among its citations, Premium 1 had been cited for “operating without the required public garage license” in March at 10 schools.