Belfast parking problems addressed in council meeting

Posted June 19, 2012, at 10:40 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Parking ticket scofflaws of downtown Belfast should consider themselves put on notice.

A slate of much stricter parking ordinance changes passed its first reading Tuesday night at the regular Belfast City Council meeting. Among the changes that have been proposed: parking fines will double from $5 to $10, the fine will increase to $25 if not paid within 30 days and the city has the right to secure violating vehicles with a boot device.

Councilor Mike Hurley had wanted the council to enact the amendments to the parking ordinance right away, but was outvoted.

“I think we just ought to do it and do it quick,” he said.

For several weeks now, parking enforcers have been hard at work issuing $5 tickets on vehicles that have outstayed their two-hour welcome in most on-street downtown locales.

Police Chief Mike McFadden has said there is little his crew can do, however, to enforce an ordinance that previously has had little in the way of teeth. Many in the community have $5 tickets that have gone unpaid for months and even years.

But if the city council votes to pass the revamped ordinance, councilors believe things will change. The first parking violation will lead to a warning but no fine, but an offender’s second violation will have the $10 initial fine and a third violation, and any after that will come with a $25 ticket. That will double to $50 if it’s not paid within 30 days.

“What are we going to do about unpaid fines?” Councilor Marina DeLune asked.

“We’re going to wait until they accumulate, and it’s worth our while to go after them,” City Manager Joe Slocum responded.

A second and final reading of the ordinance changes likely will take place during the next regular council meeting, which now is scheduled for Tuesday, July 3.

City councilors also held a spirited conversation on the continuing problem of motorcycle noise in Belfast. A law passed last May gives motorcycle operators the option of going to a certified inspection station to have the exhaust noise checked by a sound meter. Police officers were given the right the previous year to determine whether a bike is too loud.

Councilor Roger Lee said the city must be aggressive about finding a solution to noisy motorcycles.

“I’m offended by this behavior, big time,” he said. “I’m not saying I want to do this — but is there a way to prohibit motorcycles on certain streets?”

Although McFadden said the city attorney would be better placed to answer the question, the council didn’t follow up on Lee’s query.

DeLune suggested police patrol the harbor more often, waiting for noisy riders to roar down Main Street to the waterfront.

McFadden asked that if citizens notice a particularly offensive motorcycle, they jot down the registration number and share it with police.

“Our police officers have all told me that they enforce this law,” he said. “It really is the motorcyclists’ responsibility to come through town with a reasonable amount of noise.”

Councilors eventually voted to purchase about a half-dozen signs that exhort motorcyclists to “Please drive quietly” and have them placed around town.

The council also:

• Discussed Belfast’s continuing efforts to withdraw from RSU 20. They voted to have Steve Hutchings be the petitioning member of the city’s withdrawal committee and Councilor Eric Sanders be the city’s representative.

• Unanimously voted to allow the family of Belfast native Sylvan Walton, who died in a snowboarding accident in February, to install a wooden bench in his memory near the harbor in Heritage Park.

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