Church fest means fun -- and maybe parking fines
By ANNE LINDBERG
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000
PINELLAS PARK -- Sacred Heart Catholic Church will kick off the festival season Wednesday with its fall festival. The event helps to raise scholarship money for the Sacred Heart School.
The midway, fair food and beer bring traffic. With traffic comes parking problems and, at times, parking violations. Of course, with parking violations come tickets.
That worries Pinellas Park council member Chuck Williams, who is a member of the church. In fact, it worried him so much that he asked Interim Police Chief Dorene Thomas to tell the city's police volunteers to "use discretion" when dealing with violators who may attend the festival.
Some of the volunteers would sit there and write tickets all night, Williams told the chief Thursday during a council workshop. That shouldn't happen, he said.
Williams denied Friday that he was using his position on the council to tell the police to go easy on people who may attend his church's biggest fundraiser of the year.
"I would never use my position to do that," Williams said.
In fact, Williams said, he has talked to Thomas about over-zealous volunteers before.
"I've talked to Dorene before about the volunteers, that they need to use some discretion in some of these cases," he said. "We do get complaints about the volunteers."
Sometimes, Williams said, those complaints concern people who were parked in handicapped spots. Occasionally, a police volunteer will write a ticket because he or she does not see a handicapped sticker and the owner will return and show a valid parking permit. Sometimes the volunteer refuses to tear up the ticket, Williams said.
That means the car owner must visit the police station and have the sergeant void the ticket, he said.
"They can void that ticket right then and there," Williams said. "I would like these volunteers to succeed, but I want them to use common sense."
Williams was particularly concerned about the volunteers' reaction to people who might park on sidewalks while attending the Sacred Heart festival. That's a distinct possibility along 46th Way N.
That road will be closed, but it's narrow and there's no parking on the residential side of the street. If people park on the grass on the eastern, non-residential side, part of their car will still be sticking into the road. To avoid that, many people pull onto the sidewalk. But that's illegal under a Pinellas Park ordinance.
Williams said he would like to see people warned first, and then if they don't obey the rules, the volunteer should issue the ticket. He said it would be a good idea for the city to put up signs telling people not to park on the sidewalks.
"My answer to that is we always use discretion, not only here but in other instances," Thomas said.
Part of that discretion involves trying to prevent problems, she said. In this case, Thomas said, it will mean calling Sacred Heart and asking that it announce that people should watch where they park. It may also mean the city will post signs in some areas warning that parking on sidewalks is prohibited.
Other tactics include issuing warnings at first, she said. If that doesn't solve the problem, a ticket might be issued.
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