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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2004

$275,833 owed by non-Ohio residents

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo's parking authority says it's time to pay up - and this time, it means everyone.

After first going after Ohio scofflaws, the authority wants to focus on the nearly $300,000 in unpaid parking tickets written on out-of-state cars, most of them from Michigan.

Clayton Johnston, president of the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, said the agency is working on a deal with Michigan state government to get the names and addresses of the Michigan car owners who owe $221,310 for 13,150 unpaid tickets - 80 percent of the total amount.

Ohio scofflaws had long received the "you must pay" letters because of a deal the authority had with the state to get the names and addresses of vehicle registrants.

But out-of-state offenders have been practically invisible to the authority, Mr. Johnston said, because arrangements did not exist to get that same information.

The value of all unpaid tickets on out-of-state cars, including one on a Hawaii-registered vehicle, add up to $275,833 on 16,576 citations written since 1996.

Earlier this year, the Downtown Parking Authority got tough on Ohioans with three or more unpaid tickets by blocking vehicle registrations unless the fines were paid.

But there's little to compel payment from out-of-state car owners, Mr. Johnston said.

He said he intends to ask City Council members to pass legislation allowing the authority to get vehicle information from other states.

Councilman Michael Ashford, who represents downtown, said the city could use the money, even if it means giving a percentage to a collection agency.

Such a plan carries some still-uncertain costs, Mr. Johnston said, adding that the agencies take a cut, which usually depends on the age of the debt.

"I think we have to figure out what makes sense," Mr. Johnston said of the expense.

The parking authority is consolidating its database of unpaid tickets with one formally controlled by the Toledo Police Department as part of a new enforcement program, he said.

Now all parking tickets, even those written by Toledo police officers for nonmeter-related violations, are paid at the ParkSmart office at 227 North St. Clair St.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ashford said ParkSmart's weekend and holiday ticket-writing practices should be examined.

"I've received numerous calls about people who received tickets during the Labor Day parade. This is not the first time," he said.

"This is a major concern of mine. We try to promote events downtow," Mr. Ashford said.

The parking authority did agree, at the mayor's request, to void 46 tickets written on the Monday after July 4th weekend, which was a work holiday for most people.

The mayor said the violators had believed there was free holiday parking on that day.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077.



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