ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council approved a booting program Thursday for parking violators with three or more unpaid tickets. The practice could begin in downtown as early as January.
The $2 million the city has in uncollected parking tickets since 2003 is unconscionable, and warranted action, said council Vice Chairman Herb Polson, who was stung by the negative reaction to the booting plan.
"We talk about being a major league city and when you try to come up with solutions, you are persecuted," Polson said. "But this is just another arrow in our quiver to try to get that number (of unpaid tickets) down."
The city will purchase three to four metal devices, which are attached to the front wheel of a car, rendering it useless.
The ordinance allows cars in city-owned parking garages and spaces to get booted. A notice would be attached to the car's windshield or left front window listing the total amount of fines the registered owner of the car owes.
It would also list a $25 boot removal fee and a warning that the car could be damaged if the motorist tries to operate the vehicle with the device on the tire. The note will have a location where the owner can pay the fines and get the boot removed. If the fines haven't been paid within 24 hours, the car can be towed. The towing charge, well above $100, would greatly multiply the cost of the original ticket and late fees.
When Mayor Bill Foster first announced the program this summer, those with 10 or more tickets were said to be targeted. While the ordinance says those with three tickets will be booted, Richard Bulger, the city's director of billing and collections, said at first only those with six more need to worry. The rule of thumb for the city is that if a ticket hasn't been paid in 120 days, the ticket won't be paid.
Foster said it's those violators who need to pay up.
"We'll contact a customer 10 times before we boot a car," he said. "That's a flagrant disregard to pay their ticket. If they can't pay their ticket, we'll work with you. These are the ones who get the ticket, laugh at the city, and throw them on the floorboard."