One month after his department ordered no parking signs be erected in Alligator Point, Sheriff A.J. Smith has begun towing.
Smith said for the past two weekends, deputies who have spotted illegally parked cars have called local towing companies, including one in nearby Wakulla County and two in Franklin.
“We call them when we see they’re illegally parked,” he said.
In February, Smith said two deputies from the department checked out complaints that visitors were illegally parked. The sheriff’s office determined the need for erecting signs along Alligator Drive, warning that illegally parked cars could be subject to towing.
“We can write tickets, there’s a $25 fine but if don’t pay, there’s no consequence,” Smith said. “There’s no warrant and you can’t suspend their driver’s license. Tickets hadn’t been effective because people were still parking where they weren’t supposed to.
“We need to get people to comply with the law,” he said.
Cost to retrieve your car from an impound lot will cost no less than $100, with a daily storage fee usually tacked on. At least one of the tow yards only accepts cash.
Smith said that after erecting a half-dozen signs or so along Alligator Drive, his department reached out on social media to make sure the word got out.
“I don’t think it’s fair if you’re not going to give them fair notice,” he said. “There is no question where you can park and where you can’t. People were parking in driveways and now there’s signage that says don’t do it. They were parking at the boat ramp, where people are trying to launch their boats.”
Smith said if parking is hard to come by in legal areas, Bald Point State Park offers ample parking, along with bathroom facilities.
The sheriff also said that deputies plan to pay attention to litter violations and underage drinking as well. “We’re going to have a very strong stance,” he said. “We want people to come to the beach and treat it like it’s their home.”
Smith said he’s hoping the towing enforcement will eliminated the problem. “We’ll have to see, it’s kind of early to tell,” he said. “I’m hoping that it does have an effect and people start paying attention.”
Temporary signals installed by county
The county installed temporary traffic signals on Alligator Point on March 13.
The signals are designed to control the flow of traffic along a temporary stretch of one-lane road where Alligator Drive was damaged during Tropical Storm Hermine in Sept. 2016.
“There are some issues we are evaluating,” former County Planner Alan Pierce told county commissioners. “I have been in contact with Eddie Sosbee, APTA (Alligator Point Taxpayer Association) president, and with Ritchie Stubblefield, the signal installer.
“One issue not easily solved is the traffic signals have exposed that fact there are two types of drivers on Alligator Point. The signal is timed for a car to move at least 15 mph or faster through the one-lane section. Most of the Point residents drive through the one lane section at that speed, or considerably higher,” Pierce said.
“The other type of driver thinks they are on some sort of nature drive, and creep through the one-lane section at 5 mph,” he said. “ The signal is timed to allow 54 seconds to get through the one lane section. If a car is going 5 mph, the signal would need to be slowed down to 2.5 minutes, and that is way too long for traffic to wait at the other end.
“If drivers will maintain a safe 15 mph speed the signals work properly. If drivers slow down to 5 mph they might meet a car coming the other way,” Pierce said. “We are evaluating the situation.”