Clearwater -- When the City of Clearwater announced no more free parking, it caused a lot of drama on the beach, but at Thursday night's regularly scheduled city council meeting, the drama was gone.
STORY: Free parking vanishing at Clearwater Beach
Clearwater resident David Duran was the only person to show up to speak about the proposed effort to double parking fees in public parking lots.
"Personally, I'm not going to spend 10 to 15 dollars to park so I can have a beer or a burger. I prefer to go to Treasure Island where its free," said Duran.
City Council gave authority to the city manager to raise rates as he sees fit, and if put into effect, the new fees would be the first time parking rates increased in more than 10 years. The city only had roughly 200 free parking spaces, which are usually snapped up by beach employees early in the day. The city transformed all those free spaces to paid parking spots.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said that revenue is needed to keep Clearwater Beach as pristine as it is. Cretekos said Clearwater is the only beach that has full-time lifeguards, and their salaries are paid directly by money collected from parking fees.
The mayor also said the city's vigilant upkeep of the beach, from cleaning, to landscape, to sand restoration is funded soley by parking fees.
"Nobody wants to pay for parking," said Mayor Cretekos. "No matter where you go, be it Tropicana field for baseball, or downtown Tampa to the Forum or Convention Center, or even the fair, you have to pay for parking. Free parking would be great in a perfect world, but the reality is, cities need this revenue to pay for services."
But the increase is far from a done deal. The mayor still wants to tweak the annual fee for residential permits. Currently, the new fee for a yearly permit would be roughly $75. The mayor suggested a six-month permit for roughly $40 because he admits residents don't usually go to the beach during the winter months.
If approved, the new fees go into effect after spring break, unless the city manager makes adjustments.
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