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Council talks parking tickets

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By Chris Sardelli

Illegal parkers beware, a new county ordinance may soon allow local law enforcement and fire officials to leave a ticket on your windshield.

Lancaster County Council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance allowing enforcement of parking regulations through the use of parking tickets.

The ordinance amends the county code relating to fire prevention and protection, and reinforces state law regulating where vehicles can be parked.

County Administrator Steve Willis said the ordinance would allow the sheriff’s office or fire service to leave a ticket on the windshield of an illegally parked vehicle.

Under current regulations, a deputy or fire marshal would have to directly issue a citation to a driver.

“But as far as the traditional slap-under-your-windshield parking tickets, the county hasn’t had that option,” Willis said. “So parking tickets would be something new.”

He added that the new ordinance would not create any new parking regulations or require enforcement be taken.

“Recently, the Attorney General said counties don’t need to repeat state law in county code, so this does not repeat state law. It simply allows parking citations to be issued,” Willis said. “The Sheriff can issue citations for infractions with things like handicap parking, while the County Fire Marshal can issue citations for fire code violations.”

Willis said the fine for most of these infractions is $100, as set by state law, but can be reduced to $50 if paid within 30 days. The exception is any vehicle illegally parked in a handicap parking space, which results in a $1,000 fine which can be lowered to $500 if paid within 30 days.

“These are pulled from the state code and staff didn’t sit around saying what’s a good fine,” Willis said.

Councilman Bob Bundy asked for clarification about whether law enforcement or fire officials would be required to enforce parking regulations or if this simply gives them the authority to enforce.

Willis said the ordinance only allows, but does not require, enforcement.

“So we’re not setting up Sheriff Faile to have a parking ticket brigade, right?” Bundy asked again.

“Only if he so chooses,” Willis responded.

Echoing previous concerns about towing vehicles, Councilman Jack Estridge asked if vehicles can be towed after five parking tickets have been issued on that driver.

“If it’s just been they’ve had five tickets written out and not been to court yet, no,” Willis said.

Estridge also asked if there could be stiffer penalties for repeat offenders.

“If they violate the same law, does the penalty increase?” Estridge asked. “I’d like to see it increase and go up.”

Willis said that would not be possible because a County Council cannot change state law.

For Councilman Steve Harper, his concern had more to do with the authority of any volunteers used by law enforcement or fire agencies.

“Is every volunteer gonna have a ticket book?” Harper asked.

Willis said those decisions would be made by the respective agencies.

“It falls to what the sheriff or the fire marshal want to do about it,” Willis said.

Both council members Larry Honeycutt and Charlene McGriff are in favor of the new enforcement tool.

“I support this, but I’m not sure how we’ll get people to constantly check for it,” Honeycutt said. “It’s a bad thing when people park somewhere they shouldn’t be instead of parking somewhere else.”

McGriff believed the ordinance would help bring attention to parking regulations.

“This will make people more aware,” McGriff said. “If you get cited, you’ll think more about it.” 

Prior to the vote, some council members asked Willis if once the ordinance is approved, should signs be posted to inform drivers about the regulations. Willis said existing signage should be good enough.

“For handicap parking, the sign is evidence you shouldn’t park there. The same is true for fire lanes and hydrants, even on private property,” Willis said.

Council then approved first reading. Council will discuss and vote on second reading at its Oct. 14 meeting.

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416