Did you know that if you get a parking ticket on Fort Myers Beach ten minutes or less after your meter expires, you can call a telephone number and have the ticket ripped up? Of course you didn’t, it’s a completely rhetorical question, and the town has never shared that with anyone. Until now.
If you’ve been following our Facebook page you know the story of Matt Struble. Matt is a frequent visitor to Fort Myers Beach. During one of the slowest times of the year, in a half-empty Town of Fort Myers Beach owned parking lot, Matt went over his time by three minutes and received a $77.00 parking ticket. We shared Matt’s story with copies of his ticket and parking app history on our Facebook page. It generated an immediate response from Vice Mayor Jim Atterholt who was under the impression that there was a 10-minute grace period before B.A.S.E. employees slapped tickets on people.
Back on April 6th, acting Town Manager Keith Wilkins told the Town Council there was a 10-minute grace period already built into the system. That’s why Atterholt was bewildered about Struble’s ticket. Wilkins received his 10-minute grace period information from the B.A.S.E supervisor. However, while Wilkins believed the 10 minutes addressed Atterholt’s concern that it was after a meter expired, the B.A.S.E. supervisor’s grace period explanation was the ten minutes leading up to expiration. The app does give users a 10-minute warning when time is about to expire.
Whether it’s ten minutes before or ten minutes after Atterholt does not want the town going after people so quickly. “I didn’t want our residents and visitors to feel like the Town was playing “gotcha” if they got a ticket shortly after their time ran out on the meter.” Atterholt apologized to Struble and vowed to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
On Wednesday of this week, B.A.S.E. Supervisor Todd Sears wrote an e-mail to Struble claiming the app system the town uses has no way of knowing if time expires after 1 minute or 5 hours. He says when parking sessions expire they automatically delete out of the officers hand held system. Sears said officers are not out there issuing tickets for monetary reasons.
Sears goes on to tell Stuble that he has access to the back office of the system and he can view all parking transactions. “I do receive telephone calls from people that explain that they were only a few minutes late. After reviewing the parking session I will void the ticket if it reveals that they were within 10 minutes late.”
Sears says the only way he can rip up your ticket is if you call immediately after seeing the ticket. If they call later, he says he’s unable to tell if anyone was parked longer than they reported.
Even though Struble did not call Sears “immediately,” he actually didn’t call him at all, Sears told Struble he was voiding his citation as “it does reveal that you were 3 minutes late.”
There’s a history of your usage in the parking app. If you go over by a few minutes and get nailed for a ticket, be sure to save the history so you can show the town if you do call and nobody is there to answer. Here’s the phone number you should keep handy if this happens to you. It’s the number Sears gave Struble in the e-mail: 239-463-5888.
On Thursday, the town of Fort Myers Beach Magistrate upheld a parking ticket violation for Michael Duvall, who B.A.S.E. officer Mike Surick alleged took too long to unload his products while making a delivery to Bella Mozzarella in Times Square. It was clear the B.A.S.E. officer, who gave two different stories for why he wrote the ticket, was even being challenged by Duvall. The Magistrate upheld the $77 ticket and $175 administrative fee.
Atterholt plans to bring the issue up at the Town Council meeting Monday.