With an estimated $100,000 owed to the city of Youngstown in unpaid parking tickets, Youngstown Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown Clark has proposed creating a Parking Violations Bureau.
The proposal was discussed at a meeting Wednesday of the Youngstown City Council Safety Committee, which signed off on the proposal. However, City Council still must approve the bureau’s creation.
All money collected through the Parking Violations Bureau would go back into the city’s general fund. Brown Clark said in March alone, the current parking ticket office paid $15,000 into the general fund.
“And that is taking into consideration the fact we have trouble collecting from people,” she said.
Brown Clark said one person owes $6,800 in unpaid parking tickets and fees.
“Anyone racking up $7,000 in parking tickets is not taking it seriously. Having a Parking Violations Bureau will help them take it seriously,” she said.
The proposal has been in the works for months and is a collaboration between Brown Clark and City Law Director Anthony Farris, who said four separate ordinances would have to be passed in order to create the bureau. One would establish the Parking Violations Bureau, one would amend the city ordinance to make parking violations a minor misdemeanor instead of a fourth-degree misdemeanor, one would create a parking infraction and one would give the city immobilization power.
Brown Clark said no additional staff would be needed for the bureau and she would like it to be established in early May. Currently, parking fines are $10 if paid within 10 days. The fine increases to $20 after 10 days and increases to $30 if not paid within 30 days. The maximum amount is $30.
Brown Clark said under the proposal, the fee will be $10 and violators would have 30 days to pay it, but it will increase to $30 after that. She said she is planning to hold a parking ticket amnesty program in early May in which violators with overdue parking tickets can pay the original $10 fine and the rest is forgiven. However, once the amnesty program ends, the Parking Violations Bureau would handle the tickets.
Brown Clark said drivers owing more than $500 will be targeted with towing and immobilization, while those owing less than $500 will be sent to collections. It costs $500 to get an impounded vehicle released.
“It is my job to collect the money and I will use whatever means necessary to do that,” she said.
Several employees of VXI Global Solutions disagree with the proposed bureau, saying it is “ridiculous.” VXI workers are supposed to park at the Covelli Centre for free and take a shuttle to the Phar-Mor building, where the company is located.
One employee, who only wanted to be identified as Kia, said she thinks people who work downtown should have their own parking spaces. She said she has racked up $300 worth of parking tickets in the three years she has worked at VXI.
“I have to pay those tickets to renew my driver’s license. Sometimes, you get towed. That department would be outrageous and I think it’s harassment,” Kia said.
She said she does pay some of her parking fines when she can, but she cannot afford $300 all at once.
Gilbert Blazek of Diamond has worked at VXI for about three weeks and already has gotten a dozen parking tickets. He said parking downtown is terrible and he does not like using the shuttle from the Covelli Centre.
“The shuttle runs late and then you are late for work. If you park in front of the building, you get a ticket and it’s $10 or $20. You are better off paying monthly to park in the garage,” Blazek said.
He said he once received three tickets in one day, which he called “ridiculous.”
Brown Clark acknowledged that parking is an issue downtown, but she said people still need to follow the rules or face the consequences if they don’t.
“There are pages and pages and pages of people who have not paid a ticket in the past 10 years,” Brown Clark said. “Let this be a warning: We are coming after you.”
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