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Published: Sunday, 6/29/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

110,000 TICKETS OUTSTANDING

Parking agency kicks into drive to collect fines

Authority looking for $3.5M in tardy citations since 2001

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A ticket on a car parked on Superior Street near Madison means  the driver has to pay up or face a probe into prior fines. A ticket on a car parked on Superior Street near Madison means the driver has to pay up or face a probe into prior fines.
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Toledo has more than 110,000 unpaid parking tickets — mostly from downtown meters — written during the last dozen years, and one by one, the agency charged with collecting the more than $3.5 million owed from those citations is tracking down its money.

Vince Piscopo of Sylvania Township received a collections letter earlier this month from a Toledo law firm. He struggled to recall what outstanding fine he had either forgotten or just didn’t know about.

The letter threatening legal action demanded $10 from a February, 2002, ticket the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority said he owes.

“The original fine was $7, now up to $10,” Mr. Piscopo said. “They also listed two tickets from 1999, which I guess I paid. ... How do I defend myself over a 12-year-old accusation of improper parking? I suppose I could just pay the $10, but I want to see how far they take it.”

Yellow tickets are visible on  a line of parked cars on Superior near Madison. Toledo has more than 110,000 unpaid tickets — mostly from downtown meters —written in the last dozen years. Yellow tickets are visible on a line of parked cars on Superior near Madison. Toledo has more than 110,000 unpaid tickets — mostly from downtown meters —written in the last dozen years.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Dan Fortinberry, the parking authority’s general manager, said tickets prior to 2001 were deemed noncollectible, but the tickets written since then are included in an aggressive collections effort using a collections agency.

“If a person has active tickets, they don’t go away, but collections efforts from those earlier than 2001 were dropped off. However, if someone who comes in with new tickets, we look it up and tell them they owe a couple from a while ago,” Mr. Fortinberry said.

Toledo law firm Scheer, Green, and Burke, L.P.A. takes a “standard amount collection fee,” Mr. Fortinberry said, estimating the lawyers’‍ cut at between 20 and 40 percent, depending on whether a particular case has to be taken to court to enforce the fine.

The collected money, along with what is paid promptly for fines and put into downtown meters, is split between the city of Toledo and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority after the parking authority pays its bills.

The port authority in late 2011 paid the city of Toledo $12.4 million to buy three municipal parking garages and take over management of curbside metered parking, a deal that took effect in January, 2012. That sale put about $8 million into city coffers after the garages’‍ outstanding debts were paid off.

The deal gave the port authority ownership of the Vistula, Port Lawrence, and Superior garages and responsibility for almost 1,000 downtown parking meters.

The Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, also known as ParkSmart, previously managed the parking facilities under a direct city contract. Its agents wrote 26,400 parking tickets downtown last year.

Once it got control, the port authority hired the Downtown Toledo Development Corp., run by Bill Thomas, for $60,000 a year to act as the middleman between the port and the parking authority. That fee is now up to $100,000 a year and is used for marketing and promoting downtown, said Mr. Thomas, who is also executive director of the Downtown Toledo Improvement District.

Thomas Winston, the port’s chief financial officer, said $300,000 is allocated annually for capital repairs and confirmed that net income is split evenly with the city after the Downtown Toledo Development Corp. gets its fee.

Last year, the city received $350,000, said George Sarantou, city finance director.

Mr. Sarantou said the four-party arrangement is a good deal.

“The garages have to be continually updated, and regarding the on-street parking, they seem to be pretty effective in that,” he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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