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TREASURE ISLAND – People who park on sidewalks, block driveways or violate parking regulations in the city will soon face more hefty fines that are expected to double next month.

During a work session Aug. 21, Armand Boudreau, public safety director and police chief, told commissioners that staff’s proposed doubling of parking fines are designed to deter repeat violators from “willfully incurring violations, and paying a $30 to $40 fine as a matter of doing business or visiting the city.”

This year, Treasure Island is slated to write about 5,000 parking fines, which is a lot for a city its size.

“We expect that number will come down with an increase in fines, because a lot of them are incurred by repeat violators. We want to change parking behavior,” the chief said.

“The city’s parking fines have remained the same for at least 15 years, and these low fine amounts appear to be contributing to repeated parking violations,” Boudreau said. “The current fine levels do not serve as an overall deterrent, and staff believes a significant increase in a majority of the parking fines is warranted to mitigate repeated offenses.”

“These willful acts clog streets and block driveways, with the most frequent parking problems occurring on Sunset Beach, with drivers blocking driveways and parking on sidewalks,” he told commissioners.

And it’s not just beachgoers who are among the major offenders.

The sidewalk along West Gulf Boulevard in Sunset Beach, between 86th Avenue and 80th Avenue, has seen the most violations, with a mix of contractors and beachgoers parking on the sidewalk. Contractors and vendors consider the fine as part of doing business, Boudreau said.

As a deterrent staff proposes raising most fines from $30 and $40 to $60 and $80.

If approved next month, the fine for parking on a sidewalk will go from $30 to $80, with a new $80 fine added for blocking driveways.

In addition, the fine for overtime parking, not parking with left wheels to the curb, parking in a boat trailer only zone, or in a no parking zone, and leaving keys in the ignition will go from $30 to $60; the fine for double parking, leaving the motor running unattended, parking in a loading zone or fire lane and improper parking will be raised from $40 to $80.

However, the fine for backing into a space will be removed, the chief said.

Police regularly tow violators for blocking driveways or fire hydrants and parking on sidewalks, as well as double parking, which can prevent emergency vehicles from getting through.

The department employs a full-time state certified parking enforcement officer who conducts regular patrols of city-owned properties, parking lots on street parking areas and rights-of-way to issue citations to offenders, the chief explained. In addition all the city’s police officers enforce parking laws.

When it comes to parking of boat trailers, campers and recreational vehicles on city rights-of-way, the code of ordinances currently does not set the fine amount for this violation; the fine amount is set by administrative order of the chief judge in Pinellas County. As a result, the penalty for this violation carries a $143 fine.

Staff issued 17 such citations under this penalty structure and received numerous complaints, regarding the disproportionately high fine amount, the chief explained.

“The $143 fine is not consistent with other similar parking fines and staff supports setting the fine amount at $90,” he said.

Mayor Larry Lunn noted the new fine schedule is “very appropriate and needed.”

City commissioners will hold two public hearings on the increased fine structure on Sept. 4 and Sept. 18.

In other work session action, commissioners decided to preliminarily consider former Mayor Robert Minning’s request to fill the District 3 seat vacated by former Commissioner Ralph Kennedy, until an election can be held in March.

“I have no desire or plan to be a candidate for the District 3's seat in next year's general election, “ Minning said.

Three other residents of District 3 also submitted letters of interest; Karen Barnett, Mark Cox, and Planning and Zoning Board member Saleene Partridge.

Lunn said since Minning indicated he is not interested pursing the seat in March that makes him the most likely candidate, because it will allow voters to decide. He added it also will allow the three other interested individuals time to decide whether they want to run for the full term.

Commissioner Tyler Payne noted Minning already has a proven track record and established trust with voters, so he is the likely choice to fill the seat until the next election.

Commissioners are expected to vote to seat Minning at the regular session Sept. 8.