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Better Pay Off Those Downtown Athens Parking Tickets

Chuck Horton doesn’t want to boot your car—but he will if he has to.

The Athens Downtown Development Authority is cracking down on unpaid parking tickets, Executive Director Kathryn Lookofsky says. That means Horton—the ADDA’s interim parking director—is patrolling downtown, booting folks like they owe him money. Because they do.

When Horton, a former Oconee County commissioner and University of Georgia police chief, replaced Laura Miller, the parking director who quit last month, he was shocked at the number of people with unpaid parking tickets. Over the decades, drivers have accumulated about $3 million in unpaid tickets downtown, according to Lookofsky.

“That’s a lot of folks who owe a lot of money and don’t want to do right,” Horton told the ADDA board Tuesday afternoon.

Horton is carrying 30 boots in his car, and he’s not afraid to use them. He and his staff booted eight cars before lunch today, he said. “Ideally, if folks see a lot of boots, maybe they’ll come in and pay up,” he said.

The ADDA is focusing on drivers who’ve accumulated $50 or more in tickets, but some owe far more than that. One person has gotten more than $300 in tickets on each of his two vehicles, Horton said, but Lookofsky said the record during her seven-year tenure is $2,000—and on a 30-year-old car that probably wasn’t even worth that much, to boot.

Part of the problem is that people who work downtown and have parking permits—or should have them—are parking on the street, where there’s a two-hour time limit, rather than in a deck, Horton said. “There are so many employees who are taking up spaces in front of businesses,” he said. “That’s taking away space from folks who are coming in to spend money.”

Horton said he agreed to fill in as a favor to Brian Brodrick, a friend and an ADDA board member. Lookofsky said she’s received about a dozen “viable” applications for a permanent replacement for Miller. Her own contract expires at the end of June, and ADDA board members hope to hire a new executive director in May.