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RECORD EDITORIAL: Is paid parking a taxpayer double-dip?

As the county grows and the “T-word” (taxes) continues to be a political poison pill to most state and local elected officials, residents are increasingly caught in the intersection of a coming “decision collision.”

That’s increasingly leading to user fees, rather than taxes. And the issue is on a fast train to somewhere in both the county and the Beach. St. Augustine, itself, has been metering the majority of its parking for years.

At the Beach, citizen opposition seems to be holding the high ground in the dilemma. But grassroots support doesn’t necessarily mean elected official support. The Beach is, as usual, dancing around an issue of more-than-modest opposition there. That could go on for months — and likely will.

The County, for its part, has no such political timidity. Prior to bringing up the issue in a, let’s say, “newsworthy,” way, it had already sent out RFPs and selected a company to take over the task of implementing and monitoring countywide parking on previously free county-owned lots — and the beaches.

The result is three alternatives. First is to take on that task as well. The second is to hire it out to Republic Parking Systems. The third is to come up with some modified plan sharing the responsibilities between the two. That won’t happen.

The county has a fistful of research and spit-balling on the future efficacy of one, both or either — especially in terms of beach revenues.

It’s not surprising that the best deal for the county, financially, is to give the work to Republic — at least on paper.

So at this point, it likely isn’t if a paid parking plan will go into effect — it’s how.

Politically — as in the County Commission — the issue of paid parking seems to be at 3-2 split in favor. But, if you watch the Commissioners regularly, that could change without warning or reason. Commissioner Jimmy Johns is always a wild card until the last — and prior stances seem to have little bearing on those votes. “Fickle” might be a good descriptor, though we’ve heard worse.

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