Parking in downtown Belfast continues to be a hot topic as the City Council considered a proposal from the Belfast Police Chief to continue seeking ways to deter illegal parking.

Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden suggested purchasing a “boot” — a device that is placed on a car to prevent it from moving — a cost-effective way to encourage people to abide by parking rules in the downtown area.

A list of the top 10 outstanding parking tickets totals more than $1,637.

“I spoke with the Chief of Police in Camden and Rockland and they said there is a quick and desired effect to placing the boot on the car. It never remained on a car for more than three hours before the tickets were paid in full,” McFadden said.

He also noted the use of a boot would potentially save money and time for the city versus having cars towed, especially for vehicles parked in more congested areas. The boot would cost about $315.

In addition to the possible acquisition of a boot for vehicles that repeatedly disregard parking restrictions, McFadden said he would like to hire a full-time parking attendant as Camden and Rockland do.

“They combined the duties of the parking attendant with those of the animal control officer, which could be a unique opportunity for us,” McFadden said.

Rockland also implemented an “amnesty period” policy where they would give people with outstanding parking tickets a chance to pay the fines before the City would pursue the tickets. As a result of the policy, McFadden said the city collected $40,000 of the $50,000 in outstanding parking ticket fees.

Councilor Mike Hurley noted the $50,000 in parking tickets pointed to a larger issue: it isn’t necessarily tourists who are parking in restricted areas for too long.

“People just don’t care. It’s not the tourists but a group of people who chronically abuse parking restrictions,” Hurley said.

Councilor Eric Sanders said he would support the addition of a full-time parking attendant. He said he had the impression the city was suffering from a lack of parking enforcement — not as much from a lack of available parking.

“I want this problem curbed to the point where people are respectful of parking,” Sanders said.

People parking in two-hour spaces for the entire day isn’t the only parking issue as Councilor Nancy Hamilton questioned whether any action was being considered for vehicles parked in municipal parking lots overnight.

McFadden said it’s difficult to enforce overnight parking, but said he recalled a few instances where people essentially abandoned cars in the Washington Street parking lot. Mayor Water Ash said the issue of overnight parking started to become more prominent as the city encouraged the development of second and third stories as rentals.

“There are spots in the Washington Street lot that are designed for overnight parking,” Ash said.

City Manager Joseph Slocum said he would ask City Counsel Bill Kelly to begin drafting an ordinance in regards to the proposed parking amendments.

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