1. Archive

The question on parking: Is it worth it?

City Council member Ernest Fillyau worried that "we're making an unfriendly city," a city that will frighten away the downtown shoppers it is working so hard to attract.

Not so, said Mayor David Fischer. If people obey the law, they have nothing to worry about.

At issue during Thursday's council meeting was Fischer's proposal to increase the city's overtime parking fee from $7.50 to $10. If not paid in 15 days, the $7.50 fine balloons to $30. The $30 figure will not change, even if the council increases the initial fine to $10.

The council scheduled a Nov. 10 public hearing on the matter.

Fillyau said the city, while feeling pressure to provide relief on property taxes, is taking a roundabout route to generating revenue by "increasing fee after fee. . . . I have a problem with that."

"There's a difference," said council member Paul Yingst. "I can't avoid paying a property tax, but I can avoid paying a parking fine."

Fischer has said he got the idea to raise overtime parking fines after he got a parking ticket this past summer in Clearwater. It cost him $15, twice as much as a ticket in St. Petersburg.

City officials called around the state and found other $15 tickets in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and $10 tickets in Tampa and Orlando.

The additional revenue that would be raised by the $2.50 increase is already earmarked in the city's fiscal 1995 budget. It would go toward the operation costs of the school crossing guard program, paid for partly with money from the general fund.

Based on 32,000 overtime parking tickets issued in 1993, the city projects that the $2.50 increase will generate about $80,000 in additional revenue.

That money would be applied toward the city's $353,000 budget for the 55 crossing guards that help children cross city streets on school days. The program already receives about $82,000 each year from a $4 charge tacked onto tickets for moving violations.

But it is not clear whether the additional revenue would result in changes or improvements to the crossing guard program, or simply slow the drain on the general fund.

"That really hasn't been addressed," said council member Edward Cole Jr. "The crossing guard program is adequate, but it's possible there might be a need for some more (guards)."

Pat Fulton, president of the Downtown Core Group, called the council's action "discouraging."

"It's not what we need right now," Fulton said.

She said downtown businesses already are troubled by downtown employees who park in spots intended for customers and then jockey their cars frequently to avoid tickets.

"I know the council sees this as wise economically," she said, "but we're afraid an increase in fines will send people to the malls."

In other action, the council:

Denied a request to enclose part of the pedestrian access arcade at 241 Central Ave. The arcade links Central Avenue to the interior of Jannus Landing courtyard, and then to First Avenue N.

The city and property owners made improvements to the block in 1980 and agreed that a 10-foot-wide, north-south public access corridor be maintained through the 18-foot-7-wide arcade. Property owner John Warren and his tenant, A&C's Pizza, Subs and Salad shop, sought to reduce the access to 6 feet, and to enclose the area so that it could be air-conditioned. They promised to allow and even encourage public use of the narrowed access.

Some neighboring business objected, however, claiming that any reduction of access would be a step in the wrong direction, and the council agreed.

Canceled the Nov. 17 council meeting because several members will be out of town.