By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Business Administrator Ziad Shehady suggested raising the penalty for snow parking violations to as much as $300 Wednesday.
But Councilwoman Kate Triggiano vowed the fine would never be raised “into that stratosphere.”
Even as officials praised residents for complying with the borough’s all-streets ban on parking during February’s four snowstorms, borough police issued 551 citations for violations, Chief Darren McConnell told redbankgreen Thursday.
At the council’s workshop session Wednesday night, carried via Zoom, Shehady brought up what he said was a “discussion item” based on conversations he’d had with McConnell and public utilities director Cliff Keen: upping the fine from its present $38.
Plows continued to have difficulty clearing roads curb to curb, and some parked cars have made it hard or impossible for fire or other emergency vehicles to get through, he said.
“Unfortunately, it seems like some people would rather just risk the ticket because it’s so nominal rather than move their vehicles, and we’re not seeing much compliance,” Shehady said.
The current fine is “insignificant enough that people think, ‘hey, I’ll risk if for a day, get that ticket rather than be inconvenienced,'” he said.
He suggested “something more drastic,” and since towing is impractical, a fine “in the range of $200 to $300 would be appropriate as a discouragement to keep people from parking,” he said.
Councilman Erik Yngstrom asked for more information on how other towns deal with the issue. But Triggiano attempted to put the brakes on the idea entirely.
“Let’s take a deep breath here for a second,” she said. “Thirty-eight dollars is a lot of money.”
She said she recalled getting a ticket and feeling the fine as “a punch to the gut. Thirty-eight dollars is a lot to my neighbors, when you consider what they make per hour.”
She said she’d heard “some people say, out loud, that ‘I’ll eat the ticket.'” But said the ramped-up enforcement was still relatively new, she said, adding, “we’re seeing improvement… and $38 is a lot of money to a lot of people.”
McConnell said the problem is created by a few hundred residents who make for “a huge noncompliance issue.
“We’ve done everything we possibly can, and now people seem to be thumbing their nose at the ordinance,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious. They’re leaving their cars there for days, so Cliff’s guys can’t even come back [with plows] a day or two later and clear, because they’re not even unburying their cars, or even worse, they unbury it and put it right back in the same spot and you still can’t clear the street.
“I do think we have to look at more for those last noncompliant people,” McConnell said, but agreed to look into how other towns with similar “urban” challenges deal with the issue.
Tracking repeat offenders would be “a little difficult,” he said in response to a suggestion, because owners of multiple vehicles might rotate the one they leave on the street when others are off it.
During public comments, several residents pushed against the hike.
“Raising ticket rate is not the right thing to do. This is not Springfield,” said William Poku, of Bank Street, referring to Shehady’s hometown. Linden Place resident Laura Camargo called the idea of such a steep hike “ridiculous.”
“I think we can further assure that there is no way that fine is ever going up into that stratosphere of money,” said Triggiano. “We can keep reassuring you of that.”
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