CLEARWATER — Know how frustrating a screwy printer can be? Imagine fixing one on the side of the road.
Clearwater police officers have for years done battle with their cruisers' ornery old dot-matrix printers, their plastic warped from a decade in the sun.
The Epson printers spit out 600 misaligned traffic tickets a year, leading to a long voiding process that agitates drivers and police. Yet no driver, as far as Lt. Dan Slaughter knows, has gotten off clean because of a bum printer.
An upgrade is on the way for the force's 170 patrol cruisers. New software and Pentax Pocketjet printers will serve as replacements, costing the city about $150,000.
The current units print carbon-copy quadruplicates: white for city records, blue for the courts, yellow for the driver and pink for the police. Each preprinted form comes with a state-issued number, to keep officers from fixing tickets.
If the printers print outside the form's boxes, voiding the ticket can be a bureaucratic mess. Sergeants must sign off on the change, record-keepers must alert the state and the officer must feed in a new ticket. Court officials call the city several times a week, looking to clarify messy prints.
"Every time you screw one up you can't just throw it away," Slaughter said. "It takes a lot of manpower to straighten those things out."
The new Quick Ticket software will send copies over the Internet, said city IT director Dan Mayer. The new thermal printers, popular at cash registers, will print clearer and quicker without the need for preformed paper.
The City Council supported the idea at a Tuesday work session and will likely approve it at a Thursday meeting.
Said Mayor Frank Hibbard, "Seems like a no-brainer to me."
Also at Tuesday's City Council work session:
Crews could soon begin building a second corporate hangar at the Clearwater Airpark, with plans to open it for rentals by year's end.
The 9,600-square-foot hangar will hold a half-dozen planes for mostly local pilots whose aircraft are too big for the airpark's 40 tee hangars.
On Tuesday, City Council members voiced support for the $533,000 contract with Caladesi Construction Co. of Largo. Members are expected to approve the deal at a Thursday meeting.
The state Department of Transportation will pay for 80 percent of the $700,000 budget. The airpark will chip in the remaining $140,000.
Rental fees, between $300 to $600 a month, will earn the airpark about $36,000 a year, split between the city and its fixed-base operator.
The hangar will connect via a breezeway to the airpark's other corporate hangar, where pilots can shower in a large commercial-sized bathroom.
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or email@example.com.