Motorists who park on downtown streets and other parking-enforced sites must move their vehicles before their two-hour parking time limit expires, or risk a ticket.
That’s the law, but it’s largely gone unenforced since mid-November, when the city’s full-time parking enforcement officer resigned.
Tickets for other city code violations, such as trash in front yards, also slackened with the absence this year of a full-time code officer.
Both scofflaw holidays end next week.
Mike Lutz will begin work Monday in a new city position that combines parking and code enforcement, City Manager Tony Carson said Thursday.
For obvious reasons, the police department didn’t publicly announce that its civilian parking enforcer wasn’t replaced after Lee Scott’s resignation late last year.
Statistics presented at the City Council meeting this week, however, revealed the secret. Parking tickets had dropped about 90 percent, 221 to 28, between April 2016 and the same month this year.
Last year, the city collected $34,630 in parking ticket revenue, said police Public Information Officer Billie Ingles. This year, police officers on patrol have issued tickets when other duties didn’t interfere, she said.
Similarly, the city’s three building inspectors “also did code enforcement” when time allowed them, Carson said.
The positions of parking and code enforcement were open when Carson was hired as city manager in November, he said. They remained so while he prepared the next city budget with an eye toward cost savings.
The result is a “dual role” position that the Council approved when it passed the budget on May 1. Lutz was hired to fill it at a base first-year salary of $47,112.
Carson said both enforcement positions had to be filled. Parking enforcement, especially downtown around the Tazewell County Courthouse, is necessary in a city that also serves as its county’s seat of government.
Code enforcement is just as crucial to public morale, he said.
A full-time enforcement officer, “will give us added presence in the community,” Carson said. “Having an increased presence is a priority in the city.”
The combined position reduces the city’s labor force by one. Carson, meanwhile, has chosen not to fill two open police officer positions.
He declined to comment on that decision, also reflected in the latest city budget, but repeated a statement he made shortly after he became city manager.
In terms of its finances, “The city can’t continue going down the path that it has been taking,” he said.
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