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Village moves closer to handling own parking tickets



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November 02, 2011 - Oxford Village moved one step closer to issuing its own parking tickets and collecting its own fines.

On Oct. 25, council voted 4-1 to authorize that an amendment to the code of ordinances, concerning both the amounts charged for various parking violations and the time frame in which to pay them, be presented for a first reading at the Nov. 8 village meeting.

The amendment was proposed by Police Chief Mike Neymanowski as part of his effort to re-establish a "parking violations bureau" for the village, which would essentially allow the municipality to determine how much it fines parking violators and to collect on those tickets directly.

Section 66-147 of the village code of ordinances already allows for the establishment of such a bureau and includes a complete list of parking violations and fines.

Right now, whenever village police issue a parking ticket, it must be paid at the 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills.

All parking-related offenses carry a $65 fine, except for handicapped parking violations, which cost $170. Both are fixed amounts set by the court.

The village receives only 33 percent of each ticket; the court keeps the rest. So, on a $65 ticket, the village gets $21.45 and on a $170 ticket, the municipality receives $56.10.

Under the chief's proposal, the village would charge $100 for handicapped space violations; $15 for parking in a space longer than the posted time limit; and $40 for all other parking violations.

"The fines are substantially lower (than the court)," Neymanowski told council.

Currently, the village code of ordinances lists 43 different types of parking violations and associated fines, however, Neymanowski felt they were "a little outdated and confusing" so he simplified things for his proposal.

Instead of having 14 days to respond to the court after receiving a parking ticket, violators in the village would be given five business days to respond under the chief's proposal. Right now, the village ordinance gives only a 48-hour window.

If they choose to pay the ticket, violators would be able to do so at the village police station on W. Burdick St. and the village would keep 100 percent of the fined amount.

"Extra revenue may be generated for our agency to enhance traffic safety for our community," the chief wrote in an Oct. 18 memo to village Manager Joe Young.

However, at the village meeting, Neymanowski stressed he's not planning to direct officers to "slam parking tickets down to make more revenue."

He said it just makes sense that if parking violations are occurring and tickets are being issued, the money for them should come directly to the village.

Village officers currently issue approximately 25 parking tickets per month, according to the chief.

Neymanowski believes that making parking tickets less expensive and more convenient to pay will, in turn, make violators more likely to pay and less likely to contest them in court.

"(The number of) officers going to court on overtime (pay) for simple parking violations could be reduced," he wrote in his memo.

The chief told council he typically sends officers to court for contested parking tickets a couple of times each month.

"It's a losing proposition," he said.

The chief's proposal is also designed to help address various parking problems in the downtown area such as business owners and employees "taking up prime spots" near the curb, which often have posted time limits that are ignored.

"The parking lots are for the customers, not for the convenience of the (business) owners," noted Councilman Kevin Stephison, who also chairs the Downtown Development Authority board.

The response to the chief's proposal was generally favorable.

"I think it has many advantages," said Councilman Tony Albensi. "Why should we write a parking ticket in the Village of Oxford only to send that down to the 52-3 District Court and let them take care of it?

"You're going to be writing tickets anyway and it's more convenient for the person who's getting that ticket to just come into the office here, pay the ticket and be done with it."

"I'm all for it," said township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who noted the township's been issuing and collecting its own parking tickets for about five years. "It's worked out good. It gives the people an opportunity to come right in. I would highly recommend it."

Village President Tom Benner wanted to make it clear to the public that this parking violations bureau proposal isn't all about money.

"I hate to see this done and the residents of the village feel like it's a way to collect revenue," he said. "I don't want it to be misconstrued as, 'Well, they're just looking for money.'"

"I want the residents to understand this is not just for revenue. This is to help the downtown businesses, the handicapped people and the fire department, especially to be able to get around in case of an emergency," Benner said.

However, Benner noted he believes the businesses should be policing themselves when it comes to the parking situation.

"If they're having employees park where they're not supposed to, that's something they should handle," he said.

"I agree that the business owners should make sure their employees are parking away from the businesses," Albensi said. "But if an employee also parks in a two-hour time slot and is working for six hours, that person should get a ticket."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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