February 8, 2013

S. Portland strategy pulls in overdue parking fines

Other communities may follow South Portland's success with an amnesty and penalty approach.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

South Portland Police Officer Kevin Sager enters vehicle information into his computer to issue a ticket for an illegally parked car at the Maine Mall on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

South Portland Police Officer Kevin Sager writes tickets to illegally parked cars at the Maine Mall on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

South Portland patterned its registration requirement after Lewiston, which for several years has required anyone with $100 or more worth of parking tickets to pay before registering their car.

"The city issued about 9,000 tickets over each of the past two years, worth more than $130,000 in each (year)," said Lewiston police Sgt. David Chick. Lewiston also refers outstanding parking tickets to a collection agency.

The city's collection rate has been 63 percent and 58 percent in each of the last two years, respectively.

Because fines go up after two weeks, Lewiston has actually collected a little more than $130,000 from tickets written in 2011, Chick said.

South Portland police issue tickets but rarely have time to call a tow truck to haul away a vehicle belonging to someone who has outstanding tickets, Googins said.

Portland, by contrast, has $3.8 million in outstanding parking tickets dating back roughly seven years, even though motorists pay 70 percent of the tickets issued, officials said.

The city can boot cars with four or more tickets, charging $50 to remove the boot, plus payment of outstanding tickets.

There are now 8,658 vehicles registered in Portland with enough tickets to get a boot.

The city stops short of requiring residents to pay their tickets before registering their cars, in part because the city can't require the same of nonresidents.

"If you enforce for vehicles in your municipality, that's sort of punitive for Portland residents," said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg. "That's why we've gone to the state and made the appeal that this really should be statewide."

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a former legislator, said the state has refused to suspend vehicle registrations for a non-state function.

"That's the core reason we don't suspend registrations or prevent registration of a motor vehicle, because it has nothing to do with highway safety," Dunlap said.

Longtime Bangor City Councilor Patricia Blanchette said she plans to ask her colleagues to consider tying registrations to parking tickets.

Blanchette said she doesn't know how much is outstanding in Bangor -- though she believes the amount is "huge."

She said the city must collect whatever revenue it is owed, particularly in light of state budget proposals to shift expenses to municipalities.

"We have cut it down considerably," she said, "because we do have the boot and we're not bashful about using it."

 

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

 

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