Scotia residents with unpaid parking tickets will want to pay up soon, because police are about to get the ability to tow and impound their cars.
The village in January began participating in the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Scofflaws program. If people have three or more unpaid parking tickets, the Village Court can declare them a scofflaw and suspend their license and registration, according to Mayor Kris Kastberg.
The Scotia Board of Trustees has proposed a local law to give police and other officials the ability to tow, rather than just ticket cars. A public hearing and will come next month and adoption of the law is expected to follow. Until then, the license and registration can be suspended but the vehicle can’t be towed.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to put another ticket on their car because they’re not going to pay that one either,” Kastberg said.
Scotia had not taken part in the Scofflaws program because Kastberg believed there used to be a minimum population requirement to participate — now there is not.
Village Justice Clerk Audrey Osterlitz said Scotia has been trying to get into the Scofflaws program for about 21⁄2 years. Apparently, its application got lost in the shuffle of the state bureaucracy.
The court has sent out letters to people who have had three or more unpaid tickets in the past 18 months. Osterlitz said if the court does not hear back from people within a month, it will begin suspending registrations.
Osterlitz didn’t know how much additional revenue the village would obtain through this program but she said it could be substantial.
A New York State Comptroller’s Office audit released last month found that Scotia collected only about $24,000 in parking fines from June 1, 2010 to Oct. 31, 2011, but should have received nearly $47,000.
One change implemented by Police Chief Pete Frisoni in 2011 is that officers are no longer able to void tickets if someone pleads their case before them. The vehicle owner must come to court to have the ticket dismissed.
Also, the Board of Trustees has introduced some local laws to address recurring parking problems. A new law would prohibit people from parking between the curb and the sidewalk. Kastberg said some people have decided to drive over the curb and park in the little buffer between the curb and the sidewalk instead of on the street. This can damage property and ruin the curb.
The village is also looking to add a law allowing it to tow cars when a snow emergency is declared. Kastberg said there has been a problem with cars being left on the street and blocking the path of plows.
“We didn’t have anything on our books to allow us to remove that car,” he said.