More than 40 people who have racked up hundreds of dollars each in unpaid parking tickets won't be able to flout Ashland's parking rules for much longer.

More than 40 people who have racked up hundreds of dollars each in unpaid parking tickets won't be able to flout Ashland's parking rules for much longer.

An Ashland City Council majority gave initial approval for the city to boot and tow vehicles owned by people with over $250 in unpaid fines. The issue will come back to the council for finalization in October.

"There are people who refuse to honor the laws. It's as simple as that," said Councilor Russ Silbiger, adding that the city shouldn't let people thumb their noses at parking rules.

The city will give a person 10 days notice of the pending booting or towing by placing a notice on the person's vehicle or sending a notice by certified mail. The person will also be informed with a notice that he or she can get the vehicle released from the immobilizing boot or an impound lot by paying off parking tickets.

Councilor Eric Navickas was the one councilor to vote against the parking rule changes. He noted that the city has already weathered criticism this year for its enforcement of the sign code.

This spring, the city notified many business owners that objects like the teddy bear outside Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the stuffed giraffe outside Bug-A-Boo violated the sign code.

Navickas said booting and towing vehicles are aggressive measures against residents and tourists.

"This is the type of attitude we see in big cities," he said.

A Downtown Task Force that met over the summer had recommended against booting because it looks aggressive and also takes up a parking space while the vehicle is immobilized. The task force recommended towing.

Councilor Alice Hardesty said when she first saw city staff's suggestion that booting be allowed, she was against it. But she said it is much more expensive for a person to retrieve a towed vehicle.

City Administrator Martha Bennett said it would cost a person about $250 to get a vehicle back after it had been towed, not even counting the cost of paying off parking tickets.

The City Council agreed with the Downtown Task Force's recommendation to lift a ban on employees of downtown businesses being able to park downtown. It will now be up to the business community to convince employees to park elsewhere to free up scarce downtown parking spots.

Some business owners had complained that they had received tickets when they were downtown dining and shopping, not working.

Hourly parking time limits will remain as they are. One thing all residents and tourists should be aware of is that moving a vehicle within the same block to avoid a time limit doesn't work. The time period just continues at the new spot, unless the vehicle is moved to a block without a posted time period for parking.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit www.dailytidings.com.