Several City Council members on Tuesday praised a plan for turning over parking enforcement to CARTA, which already operates the city parking system. The council later voted 7-1 to approve the measure on first reading.
The council is expected to act soon to approve the switch to CARTA that is set to go into effect Oct. 1.
Officials said the current police service technicians will not lose their jobs, but will be given other duties at the police department, including more involvement in handling reports on minor traffic accidents.
CARTA will hire parking "ambassadors" designed to not only write tickets, but to answer questions and provide information to visitors to Chattanooga. Tom Dugan, CARTA executive director, said they will be trained "to be courteous."
There will be an office at CARTA's Shuttle South parking garage at the Chattanooga Choo Choo for immediate appeals of parking tickets. If the customer is still aggrieved, an appeal can be filed with City Court. The CARTA board will select the person(s) handling the appeals.
City Court now handles all parking ticket matters. Daisy Madison, city finance director, said with the change there will be a major reduction in City Court paperwork and caseload, though she noted the two city judges would still be on full salary.
Mr. Dugan said CARTA patterned its program after Lexington, Ky., and he said that city uses a single volunteer to be on duty to rule on appeals.
Officials said the city is now getting from $460,000-$480,000 per year in parking revenue. There is $5 per ticket that goes to the fire and police pension fund and $8 for technology. CARTA attorney Allen McCallie said the allocations to the pension fund and for technology will continue in perpetuity. He said CARTA also will pay the city $480,000 for two years and $240,000 the third year. He said CARTA is convinced it can bring in additional revenue from parking than is now collected.
CARTA officials said the current PSTs spend 30-35 percent of their time away from downtown on other police duties and not enough attention is being devoted to such problems as feeding meters and parking without paying.
Attorney McCallie said CARTA will go after those who refuse to pay parking tickets, including use of a collection agency and, if necessary, "boot" the cars of those with at least three unpaid tickets after at least 60 days.
He said stiffer enforcement should lead to "better use of downtown meters."
Attorney McCallie said CARTA has already allotted space for downtown workers to park at much-reduced rates that are cheaper than meter feeding.
Councilwoman Pam Ladd said she favors the move, saying CARTA has a good track record in operating such programs.
Councilwoman Carol Berz also spoke in favor, though she said proper training of the "ambassadors" will be important. She said, "Self-important" meter "ambassadors" will make members of the public angry. She said, "And, please, no suits and little hats."