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Unpaid Longview parking tickets in 2012 total $85,000

By Richard Yeakley
Jan. 22, 2013 at 11 p.m.

The city of Longview is trying to collect $85,000 worth of unpaid parking tickets issued during 2012.

According to city records, 318 citations representing less than 10 percent of the total parking citations issued during 2012 have not been paid. The tickets average $269.37.

"Parking rules are about safety. If you are are parked illegally on the street or too near a stop sign, you can cause accidents as people avoid you," said Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian.

Most of Longview's parking citations in 2012 were issued to people who parked too long in downtown spaces.

Of the more than 3,300 tickets issued, more than 2,800 - or 75 percent - were issued for downtown parking violations, including parking for more than the two-hour limit or parking for more than 15 minutes near the post office.

There were 426 non-downtown parking tickets issued during the year.

"It's complaint-driven, especially in the neighborhoods," Brian said.

Officers with the motor unit, who issue parking tickets throughout the city, have other responsibilities, including commercial vehicle inspection.

But the sole focus of City of Longview Parking Enforcement Officer Bruce Grotemat, the civilian city employee who monitors parking violations downtown, is to enforce parking rules.

<strong>Individual tickets add up</strong>

A single parking ticket can cost anywhere from $7 (for parking too long in a downtown spot) to about $200 (for parking in a fire zone or handicapped parking without a permit).

But with penalties, unpaid tickets can escalate to as much as $2,000.

Regardless of the original fine, every parking citation skyrockets if not paid on time.

"Especially with the overtime parking in a two-hour parking spot. It's originally a $7 fine, and can end up as a $70 fine plus 30 percent more. That's a big difference," said Sally Rees, court administrator for Longview's municipal court.

Rees explained the process of paying or failing to pay a citation.

After a ticket is issued, a person has about a week to pay, depending on the offense.

The ticket then increases until it reaches a maximum cost - for an overtime parking violation in a two-hour parking space, the $7 ticket increases to a $20 fine.

If the ticket receiver fails to pay a ticket within about 15 days, a warrant is issued and an additional fine of $50 is added to the ticket.

After 90 days, the citation enters collection, and an additional 30 percent is added to the fine, Rees said.

Ignore a ticket for parking in a fire zone, and the fine is much steeper.

According to city records, eight people have outstanding warrants for parking in a fire zone. Each violator's fine is now more than $2,000.

If someone is arrested and served city parking warrants, he or she can pay the charges or "lay them out" in jail accrued at $50 a day.

"It is unusual for a person to serve much time for parking tickets," Rees said, saying that judges prefer to offer payment plans than fill the jail and that most perpetrators do not want to lose a job or stop earning money from employment by waiting out tickets in a jail cell.



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