If you have received parking tickets in downtown Macon because you overstayed the time allotted or thought you could get away with not feeding the meter, and you haven’t paid them, you can do a good deed and be forgiven.
In July, nearly 1,000 parking meters were installed on certain streets in Macon, costing drivers $1.25 an hour to go shopping, eat or run errands in the downtown district.
The Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority chose Lanier Parking Meter Services LLC to operate the parking meters and the company has been working toward management of some of the garages as well. Lanier also provides enforcement of downtown parking laws.
Thursday, the Urban Development Authority agreed during its regular monthly meeting to allow Lanier to forgive the tickets people received through a couple different programs, said UDA Executive Director Alex Morrison.
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One for November is called Food for Fines and the program for December is Toys for Tickets.
“The notion is instead of paying your parking ticket with cash, you can pay it with food donations or toys,” Morrison said. “And we’re partnering with local agencies to deliver the food and toys.”
He said everyone on the board liked the idea.
Ben Steffen, territory manager for Lanier, said for November, “for every 10 cans of goods, and we’re really looking for the big, 14-ounce nonperishable canned vegetables,” a person brings in, their tickets will be forgiven.
The food will be donated to Daybreak and they are looking for food that doesn’t require much preparation, except heating it, to be a meal, such as soup or chili or vegetables.
For the Toys for Tickets program in December, “we’re looking for two new toys still in original packaging with $5 or greater value roughly,” Steffen said.
The toys will be taken to Family Advancement Ministries on Orange Street, which specializes in working with families with young children, he said.
“It doesn’t matter the amount of your fine,” he said. “It can be old tickets that have escalated. We are trying to give people a chance.”
But Lanier also reserves the right to disqualify anyone from participating if they are trying to take advantage of it, he said. “We could refuse their donations.”
Steffen said he stole the donation idea from a similar program in Lexington, Ky., where he formerly worked.
People who want to participate should bring their citation along with their donation to Lanier’s office 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 517 Cherry St., Suite B, which is next door to the entrance to the Dempsey Hotel.
The program will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21, Morrison said.
“We don’t know how many tickets will end up being forgiven,” Steffen said. “We don’t know how many people will choose to pay.”
As of Thursday, Lanier didn’t have any tickets older than 90 days, and it’s been issuing tickets since mid-July.
“We are actually seeing a very good compliance rate in Macon,” he said.
Even though about 40,000 to 50,000 people a month have been parking in the metered spaces, only about 1,500 to 2,000 tickets a month have been issued.
“Actually, that’s very low,” he said. “We are seeing better than 85-percent compliance. ... Some spaces never receive a ticket and others may receive 15 a week.”
People shouldn’t avoid paying their tickets in the future and count on the donation program happening again next year.
“We will look at the success or failure of it before we decide if we offer it next year,” Steffen said.