Wilmington shrinks fine for parking violations, proposes other reforms in ticketing and towing
Mark Fowser - WDEL
About 57,000 parking tickets are issued in Wilmington each year, and the city is taking steps that would result in fewer citations, and less revenue - with the hopeful tradeoff of more timely payments, less confusion and less towing.
Mayor Mike Purzycki outlined several reforms Wednesday - some of which require City Council approval - including a reduction in the fine for a typical violation from $40 to $25.
"To a lot of people that doesn't make any difference but to a lot of folks it does. We're trying to find the sweet spot and we think this feels right and we've had support from members of Council on it," Purzycki said.
"We know there is going to be a reduction of revenue to some extent, but you can't let people feel victimized by a system that looks that its only objective is to raise money," Purzycki told WDEL News.
Other proposal include revamping the residential parking permit process and clarifying procedures for appeals and making arrangements to pay off parking tickets. Reforms to the vehicle towing process are under consideration, and the city promises "friendlier" parking signage in the downtown area. Better notification about street-sweeping activities is also proposed.
Purzycki also said he wants the city to shift from parking meters for each paid parking space to installing a kiosk that would issue parking permits for the entire block. He said such a system would be more consumer-friendly, but it would require purchase and installation of kiosks in all metered areas.
As outlined by the Mayor's Office, the actions being proposed and the reasons are:
Parking violations that now carry of fine of $40 will be reduced to $25, which the Mayor said is a more appropriate fine. The Mayor said he hopes the reduced cost will be an incentive for more people to pay their fine when they violate parking laws and not accumulate additional debt, which often leads violators to have issues with booting and towing.
Reduce the frequency of street cleaning, which now occurs weekly, and redistribute street cleaning to neighborhoods most in need. The Mayor said with reduced frequency of cleaning, residents will have to move their vehicles less frequently, thereby reducing their chances of receiving a ticket. Based on the City’s survey of streets that are cleaned weekly, cleaning them less frequently—such as once a month (if that scheduled is eventually adopted)—will not result in dirtier streets. With street cleaning about to stop for the winter season, Mayor Purzycki said the City will take this period to review street cleaning so that a revised process is ready for next March when the cleaning resumes.
Reduce the number of Residential Parking Permit (RPP) zones throughout the City—eliminating some entirely and reducing others in size. This will result in fewer citations being issued. The Mayor said the free RPP permit system, which was originally developed to prevent employees who worked in Downtown businesses from taking up parking spaces in neighborhoods, needed reform because some RPP areas are not needed today. A revised list of RPP areas will be included in legislation to be considered by City Council.
Simplify the free RPP registration and re-registration process by issuing permits that are valid for two years instead of one, and dividing the City into east and west zones (just like the current trash and recycling collection system), so that east side residents are issued permits in January and west side residents are issued permits in June. The Mayor said multiple permit deadlines scattered throughout many parking zones is too confusing, and with many residents not remembering to re-apply and thus receiving a violation notice.
The City will notify customers more quickly about RPP expirations and renewals. Currently, reminder notices are mailed 30 days prior to expiration; however, frequent postal delivery delays sometimes leave customers with too little notice. The Mayor said the City will add email notification and text messaging to this process as long as residents provide their email addresses and opt to receive texts.
The City will resume its previous system of issuing a RPP car bumper sticker that a vehicle owner must display on a registered vehicle. The Mayor said the displayed sticker process is less cumbersome for parking enforcement officers who currently track vehicles through license plates, and is more informative for neighborhood residents who will know when a non-registered vehicle is taking up limited parking spaces.
Revamping the Ticket Appeals Process by requiring all appeals to be submitted online with US mail allowances for individuals without internet access. All appeal decisions will be communicated electronically as much as possible when emails are provided to the City.
Reforms to the Towing process include extending the time period for a towing company to hold and store vehicles to two months instead of one month and allowing for a towed vehicle to be retrieved 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Another reform will stipulate that a vehicle owner must be allowed to retrieve their personal belongings from their towed vehicle without delay. Also, if a towing company proceeds to take title to a vehicle after the hold period, all parking ticket fines owed to the City will be waived.
Improved Written Communications to the Public includes rewriting all of the City’s parking, ticketing, and appeal emails, letters, and forms.
Parking Ticket Payment Agreements will be eliminated except for owners of vehicles that are booted or towed. The Mayor said 75% of payment arrangements for outstanding parking tickets default with accumulated fines unpaid. With the new $25 fine for many parking violations, it is again the City’s hope that tickets will be paid more quickly and that enforcement measures such as booting and towing will not be needed. Mayor Purzycki said this change does not affect other payment arrangements offered by the City, such as for outstanding water bill payments.
Friendlier Downtown Parking Signage, which includes changing parking limit signage Downtown and in other commercial or entertainment areas to 5 p.m. from 6 p.m., which the Mayor hopes will encourage worry-free parking for those participating in Wilmington’s increasingly popular afterhours venues.
Purzycki said his administration had been working with Councilwoman Maria Cabrera for several months on the reforms and more recently consulted with and sought support from Councilmembers James Spadola and Zanthia Oliver.