Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs benefits from change in parking ticket enforcement

Since the city lowered the threshold for towing parking scofflaws’ cars from $500 to $350 last year,

Since the city lowered the threshold for towing parking scofflaws’ cars from $500 to $350 last year, about 80 vehicles have been towed, according to the city Public Safety Department.

Revenue from parking tickets and towing increased from $391,307 in 2009 to $439,005 in 2010.

Through August, total parking and towing revenue was $280,645, about $25,000 less than at the same point in 2010. The decrease is attributed to an amnesty program conducted in 2010 that generated a large one-month revenue increase, according to figures provided by the Public Safety Department.

The two-week amnesty period allowed scofflaws — people who owed the city money for parking tickets — to pay off their back tickets with no penalty.

Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth said the amnesty program was very successful, netting the city thousands of dollars. In April 2010, the city collected $60,000 in parking and towing fees, compared with $33,472 in April 2009 and $31,475 in April 2011.

The amnesty program and crackdown on scofflaws were conducted to deal with a huge backlog of unpaid parking tickets that at the end of 2009 stood at about 25,000 tickets up to 11 years old, amounting to more than $700,000.

When Wirth came into office in 2010, he asked the City Council to reduce the amount of back tickets a scofflaw can accrue from $500 to $350 before their car is towed. At the same time, the city Finance Department and technology staff members were able to feed scofflaw information into the police department’s computerized license plate readers.

When the license plate reader, which is mounted on the outside of a city police car, reads a plate, it tells the officer whether the registration is valid and also whether the vehicle has any outstanding parking tickets on record, Wirth said.

He said the city also has three parking enforcement officers whose job is to patrol city streets for parking violators and ticket them. These parking enforcement people are not police officers.

“They are doing an excellent job,” Wirth said. He noted that one of the parking enforcement officers also is the city’s animal control officer.

Matt’s Service Center at 300 Maple Ave. does all the towing for the city, which an employee said amounts to one or two cars in the average week.

The maximum towing charge is $125 per vehicle plus sales tax and $25 per day plus tax for vehicle storage. An additional $20 surcharge is payable to the city finance office for towing.

The basic city parking ticket is $25. If this ticket is not paid in 15 days, the fine doubles to $50.

There are also special zone parking fines such as $140 for illegally parking in a handicapped parking zone and $60 for parking in a fire lane or in front of a fire hydrant. Those fees also double if not paid in 15 days, according to city officials.

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