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West Fargo to give parking scofflaws the boot

Instead of towing, police will install an immobilization device if tickets go unpaid.

A tow tag
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WEST FARGO — West Fargo police will be cracking down on unpaid parking tickets in the near future after the West Fargo City Commission passed a change to its ordinance.

The West Fargo City Commission passed the second reading of a parking ordinance change at its Monday, Dec. 5, meeting on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Mandy George casting the lone dissenting vote.

Police Chief Denis Otterness proposed changing the ordinance in September as a way to recapture revenue from unpaid tickets. The change, which took effect immediately, places a late fee of $5 on top of the unchanged $20 fine after 10 days if the ticket is unpaid. If a ticket is not paid in 30 days, there would be an additional $45 fee.

One of the most substantial changes in the ordinance will allow the police department to place an immobilization device, commonly called a boot, on a tire if someone has not paid at least two parking tickets on time. The boot will be used rather than towing a vehicle to the impound lot.

George said the ordinance previously called for three tickets to be in arrears before further collection measures were taken. She was concerned the escalation may harm residents, especially those in lower economic classes.

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Otterness said using the immobilization tool would ultimately be cheaper for residents than if police tow a vehicle due to unpaid tickets. The ordinance states a fine of $50 would need to be paid to remove the boot. The fine was reduced from a proposed $100 fine.

"I believe it is a better option, a much better option for our citizens because it will be cheaper," Otterness said.

If someone has two or more unpaid parking tickets that are both 30 days or more in arrears, then they would be subject to having their vehicle towed or a boot being placed on the vehicle until tickets are paid.

"We wouldn't tow or put a wheel mobilization device until the second one is more than 60 days (past due)," Otterness said.

He estimated the late fees and unpaid fines could generate tens of thousands of dollars. He estimated in September that if all parking tickets were paid on time, it would generate about $30,000.

In September, the commission approved allowing for the police to change its ticketing system from a paper system to an electronic issuing system.

Before, officers would have to hand-write tickets that were then returned to the station, and a staff member had to manually enter the ticket into the system. Those who receive a ticket then had to pay the fine at City Hall or by mail.

The electronic tickets allow for an online payment system, as well as a way for the public to appeal or object to the ticket.

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READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER
The goal of the newly unveiled West Fargo Fire Community Health Alliance is to "connect residents with the right services at the right time," an official said.

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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