City leaders say it's not a plan to generate revenue.

They say a private management company could bring in new strategies and new technology that would encourage people to use off-street parking, and free up on-street spaces for short-term visitors.

Roanoke is seeking the authority that larger cities like Richmond, Alexandria and Hampton already have.

Chris Morrill is Roanoke City Manager. "Parking isn't a revenue source for us really," Morrill said in an interview. "It's about economic development, so that downtown workers and residents have a place to park long-term and so shoppers have a place to come in and park and eat out, do their shopping and do it seamlessly."

State Senator John Edwards says he is wary of a plan that would give a private company the authority to issue parking tickets. He told members of city council he has serious concerns about privatizing law enforcement.

"Any time people want to privatize prisons for example, privatizing any kind of law enforcement," Edwards said, "it creates conflicts of interest for one thing. And you can't delegate out law enforcement. It's uniquely a government function."

Morrill says he would never contract out public safety, but he believes management of parking is an area in which the city could benefit from the experience of a private company.