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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Parking violators vent anger on city staff

Staff at the Anna Maria City Hall have been confronted the past few weeks with so many angry drivers who have received parking tickets in the city, they've been forced to put up a sign directing offenders how they can protest their ticket.

In recent weeks, said staff member Ann Maria Thorpe, she's been screamed at, yelled at, sworn at and insulted by irate motorists.

And the accompany letters in the city's read file have been none too complimentary about the $30 parking fine.

"No sign was present in the direction of traffic where I parked," wrote Marcus Webster of St. Cloud, Minn.

"So, I guess I must pay this ridiculously excessive fine. You must be proud of how you keep the riff-raff out.

"Have a happy time in your private little enclave of white people. I'll be sure to tell my friends to find another place to vacation," he concluded.

Richard and Elfriede of Longboat Key wrote that they were paying the fine "under protest."

There was no posted "No Parking" sign in the area, he claimed, and he parked next to another vehicle, which was not ticketed.

Duke Strenger of Bradenton was not so kind.

"As a result of this ridiculous parking ticket, I promise never to visit your community again. Trust me. I'll be sure to pass the word along," he wrote.

Sandra Seaver of Maine was somewhat diplomatic.

"I was here less than an hour" to visit Anna Maria's beautiful beaches before she was ticketed. She said she was never informed it was OK to park on the grass, and suggested the city put up a sign saying "park with tires off the street."

She did ask that the city tear up the ticket and return her $30 check.

D.E. Burns of Bradenton wrote that he drove around three blocks to find a parking space. When he did, he was gone from his vehicle for only six minutes, he claimed. Upon return, he found a $30 parking fine on his windshield.

Patricia Rohrer of Bradenton said she parked to ensure she was far enough off the right of way and well away from the nearest No Parking sign. Even her guests agreed she was in a parking area.

"Needless to say your officer did not agree," she wrote.

Patricia Vanette of the Anna Maria Island Players wrote to thank City Clerk Alice Baird for explaining the ordinance to her.

At the same time, wrote Vanette, she noted that the parking ticket she and her husband got was issued at 8 p.m. during an Island Players performance.

"I cannot imagine that anyone in the [police] department, knowing the Island Players excellent reputation, would have the gall to feel anyone was in violation of parking there."

She noted the space was in an isolated spot under a tree, and the officer wrote she had parked in a space for "authorized vehicles only," in a space "off the beaten path" that is in an unlighted, isolated area.

"Is he kidding, or what?" she wrote.

Paul Vanette added that this was the "dumbest ticket I have ever received. Your rookie officer must have been very proud. I say rookie because no seasoned officer working on the Island would, in my opinion, do such a stupid thing."

Thorpe said that recently one woman with a young child in tow began screaming and swearing at her, prompting the sign in the window at the clerk's office to inform people that such actions are not acceptable.

The sign states: "You have the right to dispute parking violations with the sergeant in charge and/or through the Manatee County Court System.
"Our front desk clerk is here to accept your payment only.
"Abuse language or behavior will not be tolerated."

The city's parking ordinance along with accompanying signage and fine amount is currently under review by the city commission and changes are expected in the future.

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