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Cheshire Police Chief Michael Cruess would like to see something put on the books that would give the Town a better way of collecting parking tickets, as about 30 percent go unpaid each year.
Last week Cruess met with the Town Council’s Ordinance Review Committee to discuss the issue and figure out a way for the Town to pursue action against violators who do not pay their parking tickets. Over the last three years, including what has yet to be paid this year, Cruess estimated that the Town is out approximately $4,000, money that, when paid, goes back into the general fund.
“It’s not a great deal of money, but I don’t want to get to the point where officers are banging on people’s doors trying to get the money,” Cruess said. “The fines need to be paid or appealed. It has to be done one way or the other.”
When receiving a citation, a person has 10 days to pay the fine or it automatically doubles. A person can also appeal the ticket and then a hearing officer would render a decision on the citation. More than $14,000 in fines have been collected over the past three years, Cruess explained, and said that some of the 30 percent that go unpaid “might be collected” further down the line.
“We aren’t trying to take anyone’s houses away for unpaid tickets,” Cruess said. “We could apply state statutes, but there’s a fee to that and the costs go way up.”
Sheldon Dill, chairman of the Ordinance Review Committee, expressed being “surprised at the percentage that is unpaid.” Dill said that, on the surface, it “appears there is a problem collecting parking tickets,” but believed some alternatives that other Connecticut towns have implemented were “a little harsh.”
“Some towns make it a state issue after a certain time and people could be arrested for them,” Dill said. “I don’t think we need to do something that drastic.”
Dill said that “the percentage is high, but the total dollar value isn’t that high,” and agreed with Cruess that “there is a collection problem.”
Although nothing has been set in stone, one possible solution discussed would be putting a lien on a violator’s vehicle or home in an effort to collect the tickets. Dill said nothing has been decided, adding, “Obviously we’ll have to meet again.”
“The Chief is concerned that the tickets are unpaid,” Dill stated. “We need to look at alternatives before deciding to do something drastic.”
While future discussion dates have yet to be determined, Dill believed the problem wasn’t so bad that is “warranted severe alternatives” that other communities employ. Any future alternative would also have to be approved by the full Town Council before being implemented.
“The total dollars outstanding is not a significant amount,” Dill said. “For example, we could put boots on cars, but it might cost more to buy them and use them then the tickets are worth.”
Cruess also told the Committee about the false alarm fees and the issues the department has with collecting those fines.
He hoped the Committee would discuss a way to make that process easier and more effective for the Town.
“Hopefully we can find an easier way to deal with people who don’t want to pay for the false alarm,” Cruess said.