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Fines leave cities on the hook

It's not a king's ransom but money owed to both the city's of Vernon and Penticton by people who refuse to pay their parking fines is not insignificant.

In Vernon for example the outstanding balance in parking fines alone is $67,000 since the beginning of January.

Pro-rated over a year that works out to $160,800.

Clint Kanester, Vernon's bylaw compliance manager, says the city could do a lot of things with that money.

"In Vernon here we are having all kinds of problems trying to keep up with infrastructure so council has had to increase taxes fairly substantially," said Vernon bylaw compliance manager, Clint Kanester.

"Council has basically said for the next 10 years we need to do this and have at least a 1.5 per cent tax increase just to keep up with the cost of replacing some of the failing infrastructure we have."

The financial pain is not as great in Penticton.

Figures from the Peach City indicate a delinquency of $32,655 in 2011.

As Castanet reported earlier, the City of Kelowna is owed approximately $411,000 for the 16 month period from Jan 1, 2013 to the end of April this year.

Comparatively, the lower mainland communities of Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey have a combined outstanding parking ticket bill of $6.6M from 2013.

Kanester said in Vernon, compliance (number of tickets paid) is a little more than 80 per cent.

And, while a majority of people do pay their parking fines, cities have very little recourse when it comes to those who choose not to.

Communities can either tow vehicles who have accumulated a certain number of tickets or send them to collections.

Neither method guarantees payment in the end.

In Vernon, Kanester said unpaid tickets are generally sent to collections every three or four months.

He added bylaw officers also have the ability to determine how many tickets a motorist has that are either unpaid or at collections.

He said if that number is large enough a tow warning can be added to a ticket notifying the person their vehicle is subject to tow if the outstanding balance is not attended to.

In Penticton, Communications Officer, Simone Blais, said sending someone to collections is only done under exceptional circumstances.

Blais said in Penticton, like most cities, a substantial fine reduction is offered if people pay their tickets within 10 to 14 days.

"It's certainly a challenge to have people make good on those infractions so we are always looking to educate the public as well as follow up on enforcement," said Blais.

Along with the educational component, Blais said the city has developed a parking strategy to try and get prople to park in the appropriate places, thus avoiding the ticketing route altogether.

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