ANNA MARIA -- City officials of Anna Maria are getting stricter about patrolling their piece of Anna Maria Island.
In early June, a dozen city employees and residents sat in City Hall for a two-day training course taught by Renee Tomas, operations supervisor for Tampa's Parking Division, on state statutes on traffic control.
After the instruction, the group officially became new parking code enforcement officers patrolling the streets of Anna Maria.
"The intent was to proactively enforce our parking regulations with more boots, as I say," Anna Maria Mayor Daniel Murphy said. "Parking has been the No. 1 complaint among our residents who live here full time -- people just totally disrespecting our parking rules or regulations or blocking driveways and blocking the streets."
Parking is just one of several issues afflicting the 7-mile barrier island. Other problems include traffic conges
tion and the proliferation of short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods.
According to Murphy, sheriff's deputies patrol for traffic infractions but they can't be everywhere.
"We've had some break-ins, and those type of things take priority over parking, so it solves that situation," he said.
Murphy said the Anna Maria City Commission allocated $50,000 from reserves to pay the part-time officers and an additional $14,000 for one electric car. At least two part-time officers will patrol weekdays with an emphasis on weekends and holidays.
Before Murphy beat incumbent Mayor SueLynn in November 2014, he recalled a push for city parking permits.
"I personally am opposed to permitted parking," he said. "I think that we don't want to start issuing permits. ... My preference is that we enforce the rules that we already have on the books rather than reinventing and coming up with permitted parking."
Pamela Gibbs, Anna Maria code enforcement manager, said the goal is to keep the city in its wonderful state. Gibbs said she and others are patrolling for regular traffic regulations such as not parking against traffic flow.
"We want everyone to come here, yet we don't want to have problems or issues created with this mass amount of parking," she said. "We're just trying to keep our residents safe and happy."
Carmela Sacca, city code enforcement officer, said some days are busier than others when it comes to parking violations.
"We've got Fourth of July coming up. That's going to be very, very busy, especially with the other cities not doing fireworks," she said, in reference to the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach canceling its July 3 fireworks display to help protect nesting birds.
Island visitors and residents can see a fireworks show July 4 at Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.
Murphy said he's already evaluating the effectiveness of the new patrols. He said citations have increased significantly.
"Once a week, I'm getting weekly reports on how many citations we issue, and I'm also gauging public reaction to it and it's all been very, very favorable," he said. "Those two things are the factors that we evaluate the effectiveness."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.