What might on the surface seem like simple mathematics may end up being quite confusing.

There are 5,000 employees and 5,000 available parking stalls in the downtown area. But there also are two- and four-hour parking limits and an ordinance that doesn't allow downtown employees to park.It all adds up to a parking problem, says Linda Walton, executive director of the Association of Involved Merchants.

Parking is a big problem in downtown Provo because it's no longer the retail center it once was, she said. "Less than 40 percent of downtown businesses are retail. The majority are government, finance and service professionals."

"That has never been the case before. Firms are moving in with 100 employees, and all of a sudden employee parking is a dilemma. We don't need four-hour parking, we need nine-hour parking."

AIM represents about 700 businesses in the downtown area - from Fifth North to Fifth South and from Fifth East to Fifth West - and Walton says their No. 1 complaint to her organization is parking.

The 5,000 parking stall-to-5,000 employee ratio may seem good, but according to the Provo City Downtown Parking Study done in 1980, the majority of the parking places are private stalls designated for employees and customers of a certain business or for customers only.

But as far as the city is concerned, developing parking for merchants and businesses is not their responsibility.

Mayor Joe Jenkins said: "We don't take care of the problem in Albertson's, why should we downtown? It should be the property owner's responsibility. I don't think the city should respond to parking other than parking on the streets and in public lots."

The city was hoping, however, that the new county complex parking terrace could be used to help alleviate the parking problem. But last week Utah County commissioners adopted a resolution to regulate parking.

Each elected official, supervisor or employee in the government complex will be required to park in his or her assigned stall. About 100 remaining stalls on the main level of the six-level parking terrace will serve as one-hour parking for the public.

County Commissioner Brent Morris said the parking terrace was designed for use by the customers and employees of any government entity. He said many employees of various businesses have called his office and asked why the county didn't build additional parking with tax money, but he said it is not fair to build a parking terrace in Provo with money from taxpayers throughout the county.

Jenkins wants to see a parking district set up to operate public parking lots and the city's parking terrace at the Excelsior Hotel. The district could be funded with property taxes.

Walton also sees a need for a committee of downtown business representatives. She said employee parking would be less of a headache if employees knew of alternative areas to park.

She has talked with Raylene Ireland, chairwoman of the city's Parking Committee, about developing a mailer to send to each business identifying areas.

Jenkins maintains, however, that the parking problem is not as big as everyone thinks it is. "It is just the public's perception. There are plenty of spots available.

"Just because they (customers and employees) can't park right in front of the store they think there's a problem. At the mall they walk two or three blocks before they get in the store."

Jenkins said the Excelsior Hotel parking terrace, open to the public, has never had cars parked on the top three levels. In fact, the Stevens-Henager College of Business has expressed interest in leasing 110 spaces for its students.

Jenkins said that would free up space on the street and utilize the garage at the same time. He said the city also plans to clear out the lot behind Provo Town Square and add more parking spaces.

But Walton said: "The Excelsior (parking terrace) is not the only answer. We need to solve the problem and identify alternative areas to park. In my opinion we need a parking terrace behind Provo Town Square. The property managers are not opposed to it, we just need to work out the funding."

Ted Scofield, owner of Heindselman's Gift and Knit Shop, said: "We are getting on a regular basis customers who come in and say they can't find a place to park. It's becoming quite a problem."

Walton said: "One of the biggest struggles is that Westerners don't use mass transit and are not used to paying for parking. We have to start thinking in a metropolitan attitude because we are not rural anymore."

Ireland said: "There is still only so much space in an area that was originally designed for horses and wagons. Imagine how long the space has remained stable. Development has grown many times past that point. The needs have changed, but the basic space has remained the same.

"We need development prosperity in town and the traffic it brings, but employee parking is a problem. Business owners are unwilling to control employee parking, and we have a tough time enforcing it. The frustration level in the city is high."