Greenwood council unanimously OK’s parking fee hike

If you get stuck with a parking ticket in Greenwood you will now get a discount if you pay early, but will be stuck with a much stiffer fine if you don’t pay on time.

Drivers currently face a $15 fine for parking illegally in the city, but would pay between $35 to $75 after changes to parking fines being considered by the Greenwood City Council. The council reached that compromise while working to settle on an amount that would discourage illegal parking and cover the cost of enforcing parking rules, but not make the fine too excessive.

This week, the city council unanimously approved increasing parking fines, but will need to approve the changes again before they would go into effect. The council is considering setting the fine at $50, but discounting the amount to $35 if the ticket is paid within 10 days. If the ticket isn’t paid within 30 days, the fine increases to $75.

City council members have said the current $15 fine wasn’t enough to deter drivers from parking illegally and didn’t cover the cost of the city employees writing tickets and collecting payments. The council initially considered raising the fee to as much as $140, but members decided that was too high and dropped the amount to $50.

But some council members, including Linda Gibson and Chuck Landon, expressed concern that the $50 amount was still too high, especially for low income families.

Offering a discount for drivers that pay within 10 days of getting a ticket will help people who can only afford the lower amount while also providing an incentive for people to pay the ticket, which saves the city time and money on taking people to court, Landon said.

Charging more when the ticket isn’t paid will also help the city cover the extra costs of chasing down late payments, he said.

Police have issued an average of 100 parking tickets per year the last four years. The city has more than 30 locations where parking is either forbidden or restricted to certain times. But police and city officials are concerned that the $15 cost of a ticket doesn’t cover the cost of sending an officer out to write the ticket, having the city clerk collect the payment or have the city’s legal department sue people who fail to pay on time.

When drivers don’t pay a parking ticket within 30 days, the city will sue them to get the amount paid, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

That process costs the city far more money than what is recouped from the fine. But not chasing down late payments would only encourage people to not pay their tickets, she said. Raising the fine to at least $35 is expected to bring in another $2,000 per year.

The discussion on whether the cost of parking tickets needed to be increased stemmed from a request by residents in the Summerfield neighborhood. The homeowners’ association asked that parking be restricted to just one side of the streets in the 327-home neighborhood, south of Worthsville Road and west of U.S. 31.

The council unanimously approved those restrictions, which are intended to make sure that emergency vehicles can navigate the neighborhood safely and that vehicles don’t block mailboxes or make it difficult to see children and other pedestrians. The council will need to vote and approve the changes once more before they go into effect.

Summerfield is one of the city’s neighborhoods built between 1989 and 2007 where homes were allowed to be built as close as 10 to 15 feet apart, which creates fewer places to park legally along the street, Greenwood Planning Director Bill Peeples said.

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.