TREASURE ISLAND — Failing to feed a parking meter here could result in hundreds of dollars in fines under new rules set by the City Commission.
Last week, the commission increased its parking fines from $20 to $30, the same rate charged by other cities, and then tacked on a potentially expensive kicker — authorizing police to hand out new parking tickets every two hours.
In the past, police ticketed the same car in the same spot for a violation only once every eight hours.
The new ordinance specifies that "each two hour interval of overtime parking shall be a separate violation."
That means that a car parked at an expired meter could conceivably be fined $120 in an eight-hour period or $360 in a single day.
Treasure Island has seven metered city parking lots up and down the beach and is considering adding meters to currently unmetered on-street parking spaces, said City Manager Reid Silverboard.
"The new fines will help to offset increased costs for enforcement and collection of parking fees, as well as provide more money for beach maintenance," Silverboard said.
This is the second year in a row that the city has raised parking fines. Last year, the then-$15 fine was raised to $20.
One reason for the move to multiple fines, Silverboard said, was the commission's concern that some people might think a $30 fine would be an inexpensive day at the beach and spare them the inconvenience of refeeding the meters.
Meter costs are $1 an hour.
"Some days the beach parking lots are quite full throughout the day," the city manager said.
Silverboard said Tuesday that city police are enforcing the new parking fines, but he did not know if any cars were receiving multiple tickets for a same-day violation.
Police Chief Tim Casey could not be reached for comment.
Silverboard said that over the next couple of months, the city will post signs in the beach parking lots warning visitors of the new fines and the possibility of multiple tickets.
The new fines apply mostly to visitors. Residents can buy a yearlong parking pass for only $5 that entitles them to park at all metered beach lots except for three not owned by the city: the Black Skimmer, Municipal Beach and the Pinellas County Beach parking lots.
In addition to the increased metered parking fees and increased fines for illegal or improper parking, the commission approved a new fine for any unauthorized cars parked in a "regulated permit parking area."
The city does not yet have any such parking areas. The commission is considering establishing such an area on residential streets on Sunset Beach, but Silverboard said he will recommend against such an action at the Tuesday commission meeting.
"We could lose millions of dollars in beach renourishment on Sunset Beach," Silverboard said.
Sunset Beach regularly erodes and is renourished with sand about every three years, he said.
To be eligible for beach renourishment, the city must maintain a minimum number of public parking spaces. Banning the public from parking on residential streets would put the city below that minimum.
Instead, Silverboard said, he is considering recommending that the city limit parking on Sunset Beach's narrow residential streets to one side only, with the side changing on alternate days.