As local businesses gear up for the busy summer months, law enforcement is stepping up the pressure to increase awareness of parking restrictions and limitations.

Business owners listened to a presentation from Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden during a business round table meeting hosted by Our Town Belfast Tuesday, May 15. McFadden explained to the business owners what steps the police department is taking to stop people from parking in two hour spots all day.

“We’re now starting to experience a busier downtown and with the increase in people that puts more strain on my resources,” McFadden said. “What I would like to do is have parking enforcement year round.”

McFadden said he received a call from City Manager Joseph Slocum a week ago asking him to put an officer on the streets to chalk tires after Slocum received numerous complaints regarding people parking in two hour spaces all day.

McFadden said when he called the officers on duty one was filing paperwork for the District Attorney for a string of burglaries, another officer was at a traffic accident and the third officer was handling an assault case.

“I yanked the officer who was doing paperwork even though the D.A.’s office would have to wait a little longer for the paperwork,” McFadden said. “Now I have two young guys who want to be police officers who will handle parking enforcement.”

Even with people on the streets chalking tires, McFadden said the $5 parking ticket isn’t the best deterrent to stop people from parking in spaces for too long. He said after one day of chalking tires this week 60 parking tickets were issued. It’s becoming an issue where staff can’t process the tickets quickly enough before more are issued.

Slocum and Belfast City Councilor Michael Hurley said the City Council would look at the potentially increasing the fines. Slocum suggested implementing an ordinance that would increase the fine for second, third and subsequent offenses. People who have never received a parking ticket would get a warning for the first violation, but any future violations would be fined.

“We could look at assessing a $10 fine for a second violation and then the fine increases to $25 if the ticket isn’t paid within 30 calendar days,” Slocum said. “A third offense would be $25, which would increase to $50 if the fine isn’t paid within 30 calendar days.”

City Planner Wayne Marshall asked business owners how many parking spaces are available in the downtown area with guesses ranging from 300 spaces to 800 spaces. However, Marshall said there are over 1,300 parking spaces — a combination of private and public — in the downtown.

“There are about 551 private parking spaces and 772 public spaces,” Marshall said. “For the City to buy a piece of land and make more parking spaces would cost about $10,000 or more. To make on-street parking is about $4,000.”

After receiving three tickets the vehicle could be towed and an impound fee would be assessed on the vehicle, Slocum said.

Several business owners said they see the same people parking in two-hour spaces all day, but are unable to get the people to move their vehicles. McFadden suggested contacting the police if business owners continue to have issues with specific individuals.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.