ST. PETERSBURG — By Jan. 1, it could get more expensive — and inconvenient — to ignore city parking tickets.
The City Council gave initial approval Thursday to devices that can immobilize cars owned by people with certain ticket violations. A car could get the "boot," as the devices are known, if the owner has three or more unpaid city parking tickets or one unpaid ticket for unlawfully parking in a handicapped space. The board will take a final vote Nov. 4. If approved then, the devices would begin to be used by the new year.
"This is the only way to get some people to pay up," said council member Bill Dudley. "Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil."
The metal boots are typically 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 windshield of the car or the 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 of the boot, the car can be towed.
When Foster announced the boot program this summer, he said it was intended to target those with 10 or more tickets. The proposed ordinance, however, says those with only three unpaid tickets are subject to having their cars booted.
"Early on, we may be passing on those with three tickets," said Richard Bulger, the city's director of billing and collections. "There's just too many."
Bulger wouldn't say how many tickets one would need to get the boot.
"I just want people to pay their unpaid tickets," he said. "I don't want them to think, 'Well, I have fewer tickets than what they're targeting.' "
The city is owed $2 million in unpaid tickets since 2003, he said.
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.