Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco County parks step up parking fee enforcement

RECOMMENDED READING


NEW PORT RICHEY — Nearly a year after commissioners voted to slap citations on those who ignore the $2 parking fees at several county parks, workers are beginning a stepped-up enforcement program.

Up until this month, officials were relying on sheriff's deputies to issue the tickets. But the program has never been a top priority for law enforcement.

"Most of the concerns expressed over the last six months have been that we are not enforcing the fee," said parks director Rick Buckman. "They say things like, 'I understand the need for the fee, I don't want my property taxes to go up. Why aren't you enforcing it for everybody?' "

So far, six parks employees have been trained as citizen parking enforcers, working under the authority of the Sheriff's Office. More workers will be trained in the coming weeks.

Workers will conduct spot checks at the 11 parks where visitors must pay the fee. People who haven't paid up could get a $20 ticket.

Buckman said he doesn't have the manpower to schedule daily checks, but visitors should notice increased enforcement.

"It could happen at any time at this point," he said.

Parking fee collections lagged last year, only reaching roughly half of the projected $650,000. Richard Mager, a volunteer at Starkey Wilderness Park's information kiosk, isn't surprised.

He watches many scofflaws put an empty envelope into the collection bin and take the receipt for their dashboard. Sometimes they simply stuff the envelope into their pockets.

"Some do pay, but the majority of them don't," he said. He suggested the county look into a system similar to state parks where visitors pay an attendant at the front gate.

"Just use the same guys giving out parking tickets and have them stand by the gate in a little booth, collecting the $2," he said.

Besides the increased enforcement, this year's budget also includes money for two electronic payment machines at Starkey and Anclote River Park.

Despite Mager's skepticism, there was a stream of honest visitors to Starkey on Thursday morning. Most folks popped out of their cars near the pay station, money in hand. Others who drove by had one of the $60 annual park passes hanging from their rearview mirror.

"The cost to not pay is definitely much higher than doing so," said Christy Pagano, of Hudson, who brought her 2-year-old daughter to the park along with another mother-daughter pair. "If we do have to pay, it's nice that it's a low amount."

Added Pennsylvania snowbird Peggy Clark: "We don't mind paying the fee. We feel it's a beautiful park. I just don't feel like funds for parks should be cut."

Over the past four years, the parks department has lost a third of its budget because of falling property tax collections. Buckman said he relies on the fees to stave off further cuts. His goal is to encourage people to comply with the fees, not to issue traffic tickets.

"If I was standing there writing a ticket, and somebody came up to me and said, 'Here's the two bucks,' I would void the ticket," he said.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification: The Suncoast Parkway trailhead at State Road 54 is among the 11 county parks where visitors must pay a $2 parking fee. The original version of this story omitted that location.

Comments
Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

By BOB PUTNAMCLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot has long been a fixture on Jon Mott’s sporting calendar. Not even a 103-degree fever Tuesday could keep him away from the event, in its 39th year. Mott, a record four-time 10k champion, added ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

 
Updated: 5 hours ago

Updated: 5 hours ago
Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

LARGO — Sydney Pender, 27, loved riding her motorcycle, even though she knew the dangers. Three years ago, her friend said, a delivery truck hit her. But she kept riding. On Thanksgiving, it was a crash with a taxi cab that killed her.Pender, a St. P...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature’s Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.The cause of the depression is unclear, but the intersection was blocked off to traffic.Hillsborough C...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Published: 11/23/17

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Published: 11/23/17
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Published: 11/23/17