SYCAMORE – Those who neglect to pay parking meter fines in Sycamore now will be hearing from a debt collector after ignoring the city’s notices longer than 100 days.
The Sycamore City Council unanimously approved an agreement Monday with the debt collection services company Municipal Collections of America.
Council member Rick Kramer was absent.
City Manager Brian Gregory said that in the past six months, 50 percent of 2,997 issued citations have gone unpaid, representing $28,039 in fines. About 62 percent of those citations were parking meter fines.
“Our initial ticket is a dollar; there are times when I believe those that are receiving the ticket do not take it [seriously],” he said. “They think that the city won’t have any recourse to collect.”
Initial fines for improper use of the penny parking meters are $1, and a subsequent meter violation is $5. Late fines add $25, $50 and then $75 to the original fine after 21, 42 and 64 days have passed.
Gregory said that the 12-month agreement will be of no cost to the city because collection companies under state law are allowed to charge a fee to the debtor of up to 35 percent.
“There’s no actual cost to the city – hopefully just an increase in collections,” Gregory said.
With the collector’s fee applied, someone with a $100 debt would owe $135, with the original $100 going to the city and the additional $35 going to the company.
Until the full amount is paid, 35 percent of any partial payments will go to the company, Gregory said.
The company will manage all aspects of the collection process, including the Local Debt Recovery Program, the boot and impound program, and the driver’s license suspension program.
Alderman Becky Springer said she was concerned about license suspensions being too strict of an enforcement.
“Are we going to suspend someone’s license over 10 $1 parking tickets?” Springer said.
Police Chief Glenn Theriault said that although the company would manage the process, he still would be in charge of determining when all other options have been exhausted. He said the option to suspend someone’s license is rarely used.
“Our hope is that we have no one that gets to anywhere near that level, but we currently have two people that would qualify for that,” Theriault said. “One has somewhere in the range of 32 tickets and continues to accrue them.”
With the city’s administrative adjudication process in place, violators have a process of 100 days in which they can appeal their citations and request a hearing. If the fines are not paid or appealed after 100 days, the collection company will step in.
“What we find is generally there are people that are compliant or that just want to completely ignore the situation,” Theriault said. “It’s over 100 days and multiple notices we’ve sent on a single violation.”