Parking violators line up to take advantage of final amnesty day

September 01, 1995|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,Sun Staff Writer

Martin Manescu wanted to save his company more than $5,000 in fines. Tim Bond wanted to save himself $2,700. And Gregory Wiley just wanted to go home and drink a beer.

They were among thousands who came to Baltimore's municipal building yesterday, and stood in line up to five hours to pay parking tickets. It was the last day of a one-month amnesty program that allowed parking violators to pay their original fine with no late penalty.

But to save the money, they had to do the time -- in line. The queue wrapped three blocks around the outside of the municipal building.

"One person waited in line so long they came out and had a ticket," said Sgt. Richard Stuhmer, a Baltimore police officer handling security at the end of the line.

No major problems were reported, aside from a couple of arguments over line-cutting.

This is the second time Baltimore has made the offer to ticket holders, said Beverly Crosby, collection supervisor for the parking division of the Baltimore Finance Department.

As of yesterday morning, her office had collected about 25,000 citations -- $1.3 million worth, Ms. Crosby said. She had no totals for yesterday itself, but was hoping to take in another $300,000 by the end of the day -- which was extended past the usual 4:30 p.m. closing time.

Also collecting money from the ticket holders were Damon Bellamy-Bey -- wearing a red foam cowboy hat to attract customers -- and Kyle Austin, hot dog vendors stationed at a corner along the final stretch of the snaking line. How were sales?

"Tremendous," he said. He said he sold more than 1,500 hot dogs.

Most of the line members were relaxed and enjoyed a sort of yellow-curb camaraderie. Mr. Manescu had talked about a variety of things with new friends: "Politics. The mayor's race is getting discussed. Welfare reform. Trading stories about how long you've been delinquent on your parking tickets, how much you owe. . . . One guy that I talked to . . . owed $8,000."

It wasn't the actual ticket that got to these people. It was the subsequent $8 a month penalty charges. The city also threatened some ticket holders with an Aug. 31 deadline to keep their cars registered.

But by 7:15 p.m., Mr. Wiley had had enough of his day.

"I'm mad ... but there's nothing I can do about it," he said. "I'm tired. I want to go home and drink a beer."

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