Two years ago, the city of Brooksville pretty much stopped issuing parking tickets, partly because of complaints from downtown businesses.
About two weeks ago, again because of a business owner's complaint, the city renewed its parking enforcement efforts.
"It's the parking problem. The county employees park there all day long. I sit there and watch them," Betty Brintzenhofe said at the May 1 City Council meeting.
Brintzenhofe, who owns Mom's Place restaurant at Broad and Main streets, said employees who work across the street at the Hernando County Government Center were taking up so many of the one-hour parking places that there weren't enough left for her potential customers.
Police Chief Ed Tincher assigned a police officer in training, Bill Pope, to begin issuing tickets. After a two-year respite, Tincher said, people who are getting the tickets are now complaining.
"I've been getting a lot of gnashing of teeth and upset people," Tincher said.
"We had one lady come in (the police station) and rip the ticket in half and throw it through the window with her money."
Until about two years ago, the Police Department had two employees who worked full time enforcing parking. The positions were eliminated, partly because business people said the tickets discouraged people from shopping downtown.
Also, Tincher said, a citizens task force assigned to cut city expenses recommended that the two parking enforcement positions be eliminated. Contrary to the common perception, the revenue from parking tickets is seldom enough to pay the salaries of the people who write them.
"Historically, you lose money," said City Manager Richard Anderson.
The parking penalties are $5 for overtime parking, $15 for parking in a no-parking zone, $50 for parking in a fire lane and $100 for parking in a handicapped zone.
Tincher said most of the business people have come to realize that parking enforcement works for them rather than against them.
Beth Ehlers, owner of the Old Town Flower Shop at Main and Broad streets, said she doesn't think the lack of parking enforcement has greatly harmed her business, but it may have slightly.
"If people ride by and there's no place to park, they don't stop," she said.
Tincher said no one is exempt from the rules. As proof, he said, one of the first tickets was placed on the car of fire Chief Jim Adkins. A fire captain had borrowed his car to drive to a meeting at the government center and parked in a no-parking zone.
Adkins said he not only paid the ticket, he congratulated Pope.
"I even shook his hand and gave him an attaboy," he said. "There are no exceptions here."