SKOWHEGAN — Police Chief Ted Blais thought his department’s hands were tied when it came to citing motorists for parking in parking spots restricted for the handicapped and fire zones in private lots such as Walmart and Hannaford supermarket.

So he did some research and found a local traffic ordinance that had some teeth and would permit police to ticket cars parked illegally in restricted spots, even on private property.

Now he says he plans to use it to put the bite on parking lot violators.

Blais got permission from selectmen this week to enter into agreements with store managers and owners to start writing tickets in private lots — at $20 a pop.

He said it all began when someone with a legal placard for the handicapped on display tried to find a place to park at the local Cumberland Farms store on Madison Avenue. There was a car — without a handicap placard — parked in the handicap spot outside the store.

The person with the legal disability placard for his car was upset and called police, Blais said.

“The officer went over there and said, ‘There’s nothing we can do,'” he said. “They in turn came down here to say, ‘What do you mean there’s nothing you can do?'”

That’s when Blais fired up the computer and searched state law and first found an enforcement provision in Title 29-A of state law that could apply to parking for the handicapped and disability registration plates and placards, but the fines for violators would be $200 to $500 for each violation.

“That’s a lot of money and would be written on a state (summons),” the chief said.

Then he searched the town of Skowhegan website and found a local traffic ordinance adopted by the Board of Selectmen in 1997. In the last section of the ordinance, which has been amended four times since it was passed, there is a section on handicapped parking and fire zones.

The section allows the chief of police — upon approval of selectmen — to enter into agreements with the owners or managers of private, off-street parking areas for the policing of “stalls and spaces dedicated to handicapped persons’ vehicles and fire zones.” Selectmen gave Blais the green light Tuesday night.

Violators will be subject to a $20 fine, which goes directly into the town’s general fund.

“I scoured the (ordinances), being the newer chief here, to see if we’ve had any agreements with any of our local businesses — specifically the bigger ones like Walmart and Hannaford,” he said. “I haven’t found any agreements, so I’m going to update that and I’m going to go get agreements, and if there are any other businesses here in town that want to enter into an agreement with us regarding parking, I am open to any business that wants to come down.”

Blais said in order for someone to get a disability placard from the state secretary of state, the person’s doctor has to sign a letter approving handicap status. A removable windshield placard is a two-sided permit designed to hang from the rearview mirror when the vehicle is not in motion, according to state statute.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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