How do you spell relief?
Until Nov. 17, Municipal Judge Buck Allen is offering amnesty for who’ve received multiple, unpaid parking tickets in town.
“I set the rates,” says Allen. “People have to believe it’s fair.”
The program, a first for the court, began Monday, in cooperation with the Vail Police Department. Its purpose, Allen says, is to reduce the backlog of unpaid parking tickets for vehicles that have been ticketed three or more times, which places them on the town’s tow list. To date, the town has approximately 600 vehicles on its tow list – 60 from the last year alone.
The program was created as an incentive for owners of vehicles on the tow list to settle their cases. For every two parking tickets paid in full during the amnesty period, the judge will dismiss a third – at his discretion – and the vehicle will be removed from the tow list.
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger says his department will make a renewed effort, too, to locate and tow vehicles with three or more unpaid parking tickets. Retrieving a vehicle from the impound lot costs the owner $100 for towing charges, plus storage fees of about $10 per day, he adds.
“By participating in the amnesty program, a person can save a lot of grief from having to have their car towed,” says Henninger.
The town is currently owed about $40,000 in unpaid parking tickets this year, according Linda Moore, administrator for Vail Municipal Court. The tickets range from a high of $55 to as low as $16. In September, in an attempt to notify individuals of their outstanding tickets, she says, the court mailed more than 1,100 letters.
“We typically recover about half when we send out letters,” Moore says. “And most people don’t realize that with more than three tickets they are on the tow list.”
While Vail collects a higher than average percentage of parking tickets than other jurisdictions, the amnesty program was created to reduce the backlog of tickets before the busy winter season gets underway, she says.
“This is the first time we’ve done this,” Moore says. “It will be a learning experience for all of us.”
To find out more about the program – including a list of license plates on the town’s tow list – visit http://www.vailgov.com or call Moore at 479-2132 between the hours of 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Increase in fines on the way
Parking illegally in Vail may soon be much more costly.
Town leaders are considering new, higher fines for parking violators. Ordinance No. 26, which if passed today by the Town Council, would amend the town code to allow for parking violations of up to $100.
“The objective is to make it more expensive to park in town illegally than to park legally in the parking structures,” says Municipal Court Judge Buck Allen, who sets the schedule for parking fines.
Currently, the cost of a typical parking violation in Vail is $26. But just last month, the council significantly hiked the rates for paid parking in the structures – doubling them in some cases. The rate for parking all day, for example, has been increased from $13 to $16 – just $10 more than a parking ticket, which often goes unpaid.
“It needs to be way, way, way more expensive,” says Town Councilman Greg Moffet, who supports the new ordinance.
“It even needs to be more expensive than valet parking,” adds fellow councilman Bill Jewitt, referring to rates charged by a private vendor at Golden Peak, which last winter ran between $20 and $35 per visit.
Jewitt suggests beginning with a $50 fine, and possibly raising it to $60.
The new ordinance specifically fines “turners,” or motorists who remove their cars from a structure after the 90-minute free parking period and re-enter for a second free period. Vail Police Commander Joe Russell says parking supervisors would monitor and notify police of the “flagrant violators.”
“It’s a trend that’s out there,” says Russell. “We’re trying to discourage this continued type of behavior.”
Other amendments would include the addition of late fee payments of up to $25. And Judge Allen says fines for handicap parking violations, currently $50, would be the highest in the community, or $75 to $80.
A major change to the current code, too, would be restricting the length of vehicles allowed in the parking structures. The council is seeking a limit of 20 feet, which Moffet says is about the size of “the largest suburban assault vehicle on the road right now.”
Councilwoman Diana Donovan, who does not support Ordinance No. 26, says that’s unfair to owners of recreational vehicles.
“This town is getting too damn unfriendly,” she says. “The majority of people don’t even know how long their car is. We’re telling everybody what they can’t do; we have to be careful with our message here.”