St. Augustine may up parking fines

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - It's one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country, but drivers say St. Augustine isn't the easiest place to park.

The city issues about 900 parking tickets a month. In fact, last year the city collected more than $150,000 from tickets that went into the city's general revenue fund.

The city may collect even more money soon because it's trying to stop people from parking illegally downtown.

Locals say just finding a spot most days is tough, which prompts some people to overstay their time at a meter or park anywhere they can find, even if it's illegal.

"I've been here for about 40 years," driver Scott Young said. "It's always been difficult to park downtown. It's always been difficult to find a space. It needs help one way or another. Whatever they can get done it would help out."

"I think that on certain days it's OK," driver Dave Woodrum said. "But if anything is happening in the downtown area, it's definitely a need for more parking spots. It's difficult to get into the city when you have these situations, and getting away like on the Fourth of July is outrageously bad."

Meredith Breidenstein, deputy director of the city's finance budget and management, agrees.

"The parking on yellow curbs, parking facing the wrong way, blocking driveways, handicapped parking spaces -- it's certainly a problem that we see," Breidenstein said.

Because of people abusing the parking system, the city's parking and traffic commission is considering raising fees for drivers who park illegally. The ticket increase could be between $5 and $10 per fine. The fees vary depending on the violations.

Fees haven't been raised since 2006, but the city now says fees should go up because the current cost isn't a deterrent for people to park improperly.

"You can pay upwards of $10 to park for the day, and if a ticket costs you $15, then it's just as easy to sit in a spot and park all day and just take the ticket," Breidenstein said.

Another idea the city exploring is to continue parking enforcement past 5 p.m., especially in residential areas.

"Right now if someone is parked illegally or blocking a driveway, they have to call the police if they need help, and a parking officer could really be the one to take those," Breidenstein said.

The city said drivers should use the parking garage if they would like to park longer so they won't get fined. Garage parking costs $10 for the day.

A public meeting on the issue will be held sometime in July, but the exact date hasn't been set.

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