After months of anticipation and two days of training, city parking control officers, armed with new hand-held personal computers, hit city streets Friday and found the high-tech going a bit slow.
Using the new computers, they issued only a bit more than half their normal total of parking tickets.
The computers, which are about a foot long and four inches wide, are designed to collect data on parking violators and then download that data into the city's computer system.
The city currently has a full-time employee who does nothing but enter parking data. The implementation of the new system will allow the city to transfer that person to another area, City Manager Mike Wildgen said.
Although the system is designed to make the tracking of collections easier for Municipal Court employees, it slowed down the two parking control officers who used it Friday.
"IT'S A LITTLE more time-consuming for us," said Rechelle Grimstead, a parking control officer who was at the Riverfront Plaza lot Friday. "But it'll be better for them at the front, where they enter data."
Two officers usually issue about 300 tickets a day, but Friday the two officers on duty issued only 172 tickets, Sgt. Susan Hadl of the Lawrence Police Department said.
The hand-held computers come equipped with a shoulder strap so the officers don't drop the machines, which are valued at $3,000 each, including the software, charger, cable and warranty, Wildgen said.
The officers can enter a vehicle's license plate number, the state, the expiration date of the plates, the meter number and the make and color of the vehicle.
The officer gets to double-check the information before printing it out onto what looks like an adding machine receipt, which is inserted into a parking envelope.
BY PUSHING the proper keys, the officers can call up a list of the metered streets in town. There's also a special function that allows officers to record additional information that doesn't get printed on the ticket.
The system, which was provided by Cardinal Tracking Inc., includes six hand-held computers, ticket paper, envelopes and forms, training, software and a main storage computer. The total price is about $33,000, but, for now, the city is only using the system on a 60-day trial basis.
If the city does decide to keep the system, Lawrence taxpayers should be aware that "the system pays for itself," Wildgen said.
One problem that the city may have with the system, is that the hand-held machines are designed for right-handed people.
Although Hadl didn't know if any of her officers are left-handed, she said that was something officials would look into.