Councillors Brittny Anderson (left) and Janice Morrison discuss parking fines. Photo: City of Nelson council meeting video

Nelson considers amnesty on parking fines

Drivers with backlogged fines would have until January to apply

City council is considering offering a one-time amnesty to drivers with outstanding parking tickets.

The proposed amnesty would run from Dec. 4 to Jan. 2 and would apply to anyone with a ticket older than 14 days old on Dec 4. The ticket would be reduced from $50 to $15, with $5 given to a local charity of council’s choice.

The idea was presented to council by the city’s chief financial officer, Colin McClure, on Monday and a decision will be made at council’s next meeting on Dec. 3.

McClure said the city is instituting new parking ticket software on Jan. 1 to replace the current one, which is 16 years old.

The new software will allow bylaw officers to scan licence plates to see the traffic ticket history of a vehicle and whether the driver has paid by phone on an app that will be connected to the software.

“What we are hoping to have here is a one-time amnesty,” McClure said. “It would minimize the amount of citation tickets that we roll into the new system. So if you have this opportunity now to get this cleaned up, then you are not in the new system.”

McClure said the current collection rate on parking tickets is 85 per cent, and it goes down to 80 per cent when out-of-province licence plates are included.

Currently parking fines are $25, but only $10 if paid within 14 days. If not paid within 28 days, fines increase up to $50. McClure said there are 27,000 tickets in the old system at the penalty rate of $50. He said these consist mostly of people with one or two tickets on their record.

McClure told the Star that the consequence for having outstanding $50 fines is the possibility of having your car towed. He said about 125 cars have been towed for this reason over the years but in many other cases this has been prevented by the driver returning to the car and paying the fine while the tow truck was being hooked up.

Cash from parking meters goes toward street and sidewalk maintenance, McClure said, and proceeds from fines help to pay for the wages of the bylaw officers.

He said there would be clear communication to the public on when, where, and how to take part in the program, if approved.

Councillor Rik Logtenberg asked why the city shouldn’t just manually import the old tickets into the new system.

“I really want [drivers] to have a chance to have a clean slate,” McClure said. “Rather than a backlog of 16 years worth of tickets with people who may have a $50 ticket from 2012 or 2013.”

Councillor Keith Page suggested the amnesty period could be extended to three months instead.

McClure said he is open to a longer period, but prefers a tight timeframe for the institution of the new software on Jan. 1.

Councillor Brittny Anderson suggested that running an amnesty over the holiday season might not work.

“At Christmas, people are gone, people are already spending a ton of money, so moving it to [Jan.] 15th might be a little bit easier for people that are going to be away, especially if you get the notices out on [Dec.] 4th, don’t get it in your mailbox until the 7th [or at all, if there is a postal strike].”

The matter was left for city staff to develop a resolution that will be brought back to council on Dec. 3 for a decision.

This story was changed on November 21 to change the number of outstanding $50 tickets from 25,000 to 27,000.

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