Parking rate at the Broward County Courthouse is being discussed at the request of Commissioner Marty Kiar after a meeting with county staff and a report publish in the Sun Sentinel last week led him to believe the rate is indeed too high.

Sixty dollars could buy you a pair of new Levis. A family night at the movies. A tank of gas. A pair of running shoes.

Or one day of parking at Broward County's courthouse garage in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

At $8 an hour, parking in the "east garage" is higher than courthouse parking in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, eight times more expensive than rates at the federal courthouse a few blocks away, and more pricey than even the best parking at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Broward County's public garage at the courthouse is the most expensive in the county, Fort Lauderdale parking officials said.

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That's not expected to change anytime soon. Although the busy garage will offer 900 more public parking spaces when the courthouse construction project is complete, there are no plans to reduce the hourly rate.

"At this point, we are not anticipating a change to occur,'' said Alphonso Jefferson, assistant to County Administrator Bertha Henry.

It's too high, say Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein. Users of the garage echo that sentiment as well.

All-day parking is $60. If the parking ticket is lost, the driver must pay the full $60. At Miami-Dade's courthouse, all-day parking is $18. In Palm Beach County, it's $10.

Weinstein said he didn't want to be critical of the county. After all, they're building a new county courthouse and two new garages, for employees and for judges. But he said $8 an hour in the public garage just east of the courthouse on Southeast Third Avenue on the south side of the New River, is "really out of line."

Jurors don't pay it, but other members of the public do.

"I think asking people to pay that kind of money to come to court is very significant," Weinstein said. "On the other hand, I also recognize all the expenses the county has."

Jefferson said the county has charged $8 an hour since February 1996.

Prior to that, the charge was $2 an hour, $16 a day. According to news coverage from the time, county commissioners raised the rate to discourage people who don't have business at the courthouse from parking there. The new prices immediately drew complaints.

Finkelstein called the rate "outrageous."

His clients, who can't afford an attorney, sometimes opt not to meet with their public defender because they can't afford the parking, he said.

"When you're poor, the fact that you might have to come pay $8 an hour, and let's say the lawyer's a little late and an extra hour is added, that's $16. Where does that $16 come from? For my clients, it comes right off the dinner table. It means their children will not be having vegetables this week."

The county is constructing a 1,000-car garage at the corner of Andrews Avenue and Southeast Seventh Street. When it's complete, about 900 employees who are currently parking in the east garage will move there.

That will leave the majority of the 2,300 spaces for jurors and the public.

A portion of the spaces in the east garage — 243 of them — belong to developers, part of a controversial lease the county made in the early 1990s.

When the courthouse tower is complete and older portions of the courthouse are demolished, a 500-car garage for judges and others who need secure parking will also be built.