City aims to simplify collection of debts

The City of Nelson is shifting it’s bylaw enforcement system to be more cost effective and socially responsible.

The City of Nelson is shifting it’s bylaw enforcement system to be more cost effective and socially responsible.

The change was part of a bylaw review made by council in early September.

“We started looking into our bylaws over a year ago seriously,” says Mayor John Dooley.

“We were looking at those that had deficits, in other words, those that were outdated. There’s been quite a few of them and that was one that came up in that review as an option for us to look at another way of dealing with adjudication. With outstanding tickets or outstanding receipts that weren’t being paid to the municipality and the taxpayers.”

The city is introducing a new bylaw adjudication system that will move ticket and fine disputes out of provincial court and into a local adjudication system.

“The city’s approach to bylaw enforcement is always one of voluntary compliance first,” read a press release from the city. “Council would like citizens and visitors to know their rights and responsibilities, and work together to create safe and healthy neighbourhoods. The new system will come into play in those occasional cases where voluntary compliance can’t be reached.”

Dooley said the new system is one that has proven to be effective in other municipalities and is beneficial to both the offender and the municipality.

“It’s a different alternative than what we’ve been practicing in the past and we believe that it’s actually to the benefit of not only the municipality, but also to the person or persons that are in debt to the municipality in some sense,” said Dooley.

“It’s a fair way to address some of the reasons why people haven’t paid their tickets. Many people are not paying their tickets because they don’t want to pay them; many people aren’t because they have some kind of a beef with the system and a lot of times we can address that through this adjudication process. We know from our research that communities that are using this system have had a lot of success not only for the municipality, but also for the people that have outstanding tickets with the municipalities.”

Frances Long, manager of legislative and administrative services for the city, said Nelson incurs costs of sending reminder notices (staff time and the cost of supplies) and if the dispute then goes to court the city has to pay the cost of hiring a lawyer to represent the city as well as the time spent waiting for either a police officer or bylaw enforcement officer of the ticket or tickets to be heard by the judge.

“Parking tickets are only part of it,” said Dooley. “There’s also hydro bills. How many other bills are owed to the City of Nelson we don’t know?”

“It will save the city and it’s just a fairer way to deal with most minor infractions.”

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