By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The first ticket was written up at 9:24a. The last was 3:42p.
In that six-hour period this past Saturday, one parking enforcement officer wrist still intact wrote up 203 tickets for parking meter violations. That’s 34 tickets per hour.
Make no mistake: the grace period is undoubtedly over.
More than a month after reinstituting the Saturday charge for parking downtown, Red Bank began actually enforcing the ordinance this past weekend. Officials restored the charge, on paper at least, back in May, ending a yearlong moratorium. But until Saturday, the borough had just collected the change visitors were dumping into the meters, without issuing citations.
The local government, apparently, was feeling gracious in doing so. Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, who didn’t initially offer an explanation why there was no enforcement, said after the decision was made to bring back Saturday parking that there was a subsequent decision not to hammer people with the $38 fine right away.
“We wanted to give people time to get acclimated to it, get used to it,” he said.
Saturday was the first day the borough put an enforcement officer on duty to nab violators.
And nab he did. If 200 tickets sounds like a high number, that’s because it is.
Although there are no averages available from borough hall, a scan through citations for prior Saturdays on which parking rules were enforced shows that even 100 tickets in a day is above average.
On July 5, 2008, about 80 tickets were issued. The following Saturday, July 12, about 60. A week later, about 50 tickets were written. And on the first Saturday that August, about 70 people were welcomed with tickets pressed against their windshield.
“We’re enforcing like we always enforced,” Sickels said. “I don’t know how that compares to other days.”
The borough, not long after doubling its downtown meter rates and raising its permit fees, decided to bring back the charge for Saturday parking because it could no longer do without the estimated $10,000 the Saturday collections generate each month. Quick math says that Red Bank almost made that month’s worth of revenue loss up in six hours, with $7,714 worth of tickets.
Not so, Sickels says.
The borough keeps about half of the money paid by parking offenders, he said. A large chunk of the rest goes to the state, he said, to cover mandates. Sickels estimates that if all 203 of the summonses equate to guilty pleas or paid fines, only about $3,000 will come back to borough coffers.
The grace period may not have been long enough, either. Sickels says writing 200 tickets on a Saturday is an aberration.
“It’s the first time,” he said. “Then word will get out. Then it’ll fall off.”