BELLEAIR SHORE — Changes are being looked at in two functions of town government: code enforcement and the issuing of parking tickets. Options for both were discussed at the Feb. 18 Town Commission meeting.

Code enforcement for the town has been handled for the past five years by an independent contractor who is a retired police deputy. He is paid $20 an hour and works on an as-needed basis, normally only about an hour or two a month.

Mayor Robert Schmidt said there has been a lack of reporting from the code enforcement officer in recent months giving updates on what he does.

Town Clerk Barbara Colucci said, “We don’t have any proof he is actually working the hours he is billing us, because we don’t get a report.”

Town Attorney Regina Kardash said that in order to successfully pursue code enforcement litigation “we need a structure. I need a report that says what was found and the date. I need someone that knows how to write a report and how to collect evidence.”

Colucci said there are alternative solutions for code enforcement. She said Belleair Beach has hired the Sheriff’s Office, which uses a retired deputy to do code enforcement. He works four hours a day, three days a week, at the rate of $50 an hour.

That brought a reaction from Commissioner Steve Blume. The $50 rate is “way too much,” he said, but “I’m all for making a change.”

“Fifty dollars an hour for a retired police officer who knows how to do (needed reports) is not too much to pay,” Kardash said, adding neighboring Indian Rocks Beach and Redington Beach also use the Sheriff’s Office for code enforcement, as does Belleair Bluffs.

Commission members appeared ready to look at the option of code enforcement from the Sheriff’s Office.

“We need someone we can count on,” said Commissioner Deborah Roseman.

The topic will be discussed further at next month’s commission meeting.

A private option for parking tickets

The commission also looked at making a change in the way parking tickets are paid. Currently, the county handles the entire process, which includes the Sheriff’s Office issuing the tickets and processing the payments through the County Clerk of Courts office.

The town pays a $10 per ticket fee for the service. The volume of parking violations is low. About six tickets a month are issued at most, Colucci said.

The commission is taking a look at switching to CiviTek, a private firm that would handle the ticket payments at no charge to the town, eliminating the $10 fee. Instead, a 3.5% transaction fee is paid by the person who gets the ticket. The deputy would still be writing the tickets.

Dave Porter of CiviTek said the process is “very simple and charges nothing to government agencies.” The town puts a “Pay Now” button on its website, which allows a person to enter their credit card information to pay the ticket. The payment is processed by CiviTek.

Schmidt questioned whether eliminating the $10 processing fee per ticket was worth making a change.

“I want to know what the numbers are, how many tickets are issued, and how many dollars we are talking about,” Schmidt said. The town does not have complete records on past activity, because for a time the money from parking tickets was erroneously applied to Belleair Beach’s account.

Colucci questioned whether paying a parking ticket to Belleair Shore would be taken as seriously as paying the county, and that people might ignore the town’s tickets.

Commissioner Raymond Piscitelli urged the commission to “be cautious” in making a change for $10 a ticket that would put the ticket process under the town clerk’s control, instead of the Sheriff’s Office and County Clerk of Courts.

“Barb (Colucci) does a wonderful job,” Piscitelli said. But without someone of her caliber, “we could get into a real hornet’s nest. Personally, I wouldn’t go there.”

The commission will decide at a future meeting whether to use the CiviTek system and bring the parking tickets in-house.

Commissioner Dorothy Niewiarowski was not at the meeting.