City councilors in Portsmouth voted on Monday night to move forward with plans to hike the price of fines for expired meters to $35.

If not paid within 30 days, violators could be slapped with a $55 ticket.

During a public hearing during their virtual council meeting, resident Andrew Bagley said he can appreciate why the city came up with the new fine structure, but, as a citizen, he disagrees with raising the prices of parking tickets.

"I don't think we should have a fine that's this high," Bagley said.

Currently, an expired meter ticket is $15.

Bagley said if councilors want to impose the $35 fines, they should consider giving forgiveness for the first ticket.

"I just think we're using a really big hammer for a relatively small problem," Bagley said.

City Councilor Peter Whelan, who is chair of the Parking and Traffic Safety Committee, said the merchants downtown want the spaces in front of their businesses to turn over and that is not happening under the current fine structure.

Councilor Deaglan McEachern said he still has not gotten an answer about whether or not its legal to reticket cars whose drivers do not move their vehicles after the first ticket is issued. He said he wants to know the answer to that question before proceeding.

"I believe we can solve this problem by raising the fines more modestly, potentially increasing the rates if that is desired to move cars around, and issuing multiple tickets," McEachern said.

Assistant City Attorney Jane Ferrini was able to address the council. She is the one who wrote the ordinance.

"I can say that our policy had been, when we had timed meters only, that we did, in fact, issue repeated tickets," Ferrini said. "I think the issue that arises now is that's somewhat impossible under the Stay & Pay system because there is no time limitation, so there's no way to anticipate sort of a susequent violation, if you were, based on time."

Ferrini said the Parking and Traffic Safety Committee will address repeat offenders during their meeting on Thursday.

Mayor Rick Becksted was not in favor of the proposed price increases, and voted against moving forward with the plan.

"This will have a direct effect on our residents. I think we need to give this a little more time, so I would not be in favor for the second reading," Becksted said.

The council voted 6-3 to move forward with a third, and final, reading on May 17. They are expected to vote on the matter that night.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @KimberleyHaas.