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    Outdated parking fines scrutinized

    The current fines were adopted almost two decades ago. Now, city officials want to send a strong message that parking violators will pay the price.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Those who are nabbed for parking illegally may soon pay a whole lot more.

    Fines will more than double for most infractions. The fee for parking in a fire lane will jump from $10 to $50. And those who park illegally in a handicapped space could face a fine of $250, up from $100.

    The City Council will discuss in a workshop tonight whether to establish a code of traffic and parking regulations and fines and penalties for violating them.

    The proposed ordinance is long overdue, said Bill Vola, Seminole's building official. The city is using fines adopted from the sheriff's office in 1983. The sheriff's office provides police protection to the city.

    "All of our fines are grossly out of date," Vola said.

    When the city rewrote its code of ordinances in 1991, it failed to write any provisions governing traffic and parking regulations.

    In 1998, a new city code was adopted. But "once again, we forgot to put the parking regulations in there," Vola said.

    Deputy Sherri Roberts, the community policing officer for Seminole, said the city's current parking fines are about half of what many other municipalities in the county charge. "We needed to bring them up with everybody else's," she said.

    Most of the parking violations occur in Seminole Mall's parking lot or in handicapped zones, she said.

    And although there hasn't been an increase in parking infractions in the city, officials want to send a strong message that parking violators will pay the price.

    The $250 fine for illegally parking in handicapped spaces is the maximum cities in Florida can charge. City officials also want to send a strong message about obstructing fire lanes.

    "If you know you're going to pay $50 to park in a fire lane, you're going to think twice about doing it," Vola said.

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