Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ken Dial-ing for Dollars

It's hard to believe something as innocuous looking as a parking meter can be so controversial, but thanks to Parking Enforcement Officer Ken Dial, the war on the no-arm bandits is heating up. Invented in 1935, parking meters have long provided extra income for larger cities, while ensuring shoppers don't lose out to homesteading retail employees. Florence is currently the only Shoals area municipality to utilize the meters, and many would like to see the change guzzling machines sold for scrap. According to Florence officials, that's not about to happen.

Meter Maids and Curb Cops fell by the wayside over the years; since 1995 the parking enforcement duties have fallen to three part-time city employees rather than a single Florence Police officer. Ken Dial, a State of Alabama retiree with 31 years of service, is one of the original trio. Dial states his work is as much public relations as parking enforcement. Yet the approximately 725 strategically placed meters bring in almost $60,000.00 each year. With the downtown parking garage losing almost $40,000.00 annually, Florence needs the revenue, but is it maximizing the funds parking meters garner?

According to Robert Wilson, a Florence businessman quoted in Friday's TimesDaily, the city's parking enforcement officers play favorites. This accusation is hardly groundless, according to TD staff writer Brian Hughes. The reporter stated Dial overlooked illegal parking, giving a "free pass" to those whom he knew. Obviously, this practice costs the city of Florence several thousand dollars each year.

Public relations for the town of Florence is well and good. Giving friends preferential treatment is quite another matter and should be frowned on by city administrators. Or perhaps those parking perps are such good friends of Mr. Dial that he would be willing to pay the fine himself. Somehow we doubt the latter.

What's up with this: Speaking of preferential treatment, just how did Florence businessman Steven Barnes settle $1,000.00 in parking tickets for only $125.00? The next time you get a $2.00 ticket, try offering the city twenty-five cents.