Commissioners approve parking enforcement

New ordinance raises fines for violations

A proposal for the Downtown Development Authority of Augusta to enforce parking violations and use the money collected for downtown revitalization was approved with little discussion by an Augusta Commission committee Monday.

 

The Administrative Services Committee's recommendation that the ordinance pertaining to parking violations be amended must be approved by the full commission.

The authority, or its agents, would enforce the ordinance. It includes more parking violations and more than a dozen sections defining parking rules, such as the towing of illegally parked vehicles, wheel locks, double parking for delivery vehicles, appeals, and payment of parking fines required for vehicle registration renewal.

Failing to pay outstanding fines and penalties would be grounds for the tax commissioner to deny an offender's vehicle registration renewal application.

DDA Executive Director Margaret Woodard said the authority has discussed the ordinance for months, starting in December when it proposed installing parking meters downtown. She said people said then that they did not want meters but did want the laws enforced.

"We took the existing ordinance and just gave it some teeth," she said. "It went through all the departments, Sheriff Ronnie Strength, traffic engineering."

Currently, some people pay parking fines and some don't, she said. In the existing ordinance, the fine for improper parking is $20; parking in a handicapped zone costs between $100 and $500.

The new ordinance calls for a $25 fine for overtime parking, parking improperly, and parking on the left side of a curb, on a sidewalk or too far from a curb.

A $50 fine would be imposed for blocking a driveway or alley, double parking, parking at a yellow curb or parking in a loading zone, no-parking zone or construction zone.

Parking in a handicapped space would cost $500; blocking a handicapped curb cut would cost $200; and parking in a fire lane or by a hydrant would cost $100.

Authority agents would not have to be deputized to write the citations, Woodard said.

People who park less than two hours and follow the rules won't be affected, she added.

The downtown parking situation has become "almost critical" in recent months because construction on the TEE Center and parking deck has taken dozens of spaces away, she said.

Money collected would first be used to pay the cost and expenses of enforcement. Money left over would be retained by the DDA and used for aesthetic and economic revitalization.

If the commission OKs the ordinance, the DDA will set up an organization to work with the sheriff and the city, she said.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength was reported to be on board with the proposal, although his office would also have jurisdiction. He was out of his office Monday.

In other action

The Augusta Commission's Public Service Committee voted to reissue requests for proposals for operating the Augusta Municipal Golf Course because the first request did not yield any compliant bidders.

Recreation Director Tom Beck said that might be because golf courses across the country are struggling to make ends meet now.

Commission member Don Grantham said the requests had been sent only to companies that build golf courses and to individuals. He said the city should contact other firms that would show an interest in managing the city's course.

-- From staff reports

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