Frederick clarifies parking citations

Parking enforcement officer James Wardrick issues a ticket for a car parked at an expired meter on Church Street in Frederick.

Revenue from voided parking tickets in Frederick for calendar year 2013 could have helped cover the $75,000 budgeted by the city in fiscal 2014 for replacing tennis courts at Max Kehne Park or renovating basketball courts at Mullinix Park.

The cities of Frederick, Brunswick and Thurmont combined to void 4,744 parking tickets from January through December 2013 for a total of about $76,220, according to an analysis of data provided by each jurisdiction received by The Frederick News-Post.

The vast majority of those tickets — 4,185 — were voided via Frederick's courtesy program, which allows people to have a citation dismissed within a half hour of receiving it. There are three allowed per vehicle per year. The city used to allow one per month up until about six years ago, city of Frederick Economic Development Director Richard Griffin said.

Voids by reason

# of voids Reason for void Total Fines
4185 WERE COURTESY TICKET WAIVERS $62,845.00
332 WERE WARNING TICKETS $8,235.00
22 WERE WAVIED BY DISTRICT COURT $895.00
100 WERE WAVIED BY FCC $2,860.00
79 DUE TO NEW SIGNAGE $1,185.00
4718 TOTAL TICKETS DISMISSED FOR A TOTAL OF: $76,020.00

Courtesy tickets in Frederick accounted for $62,845 in voids. The city figures those dismissed tickets are a small price considering about 1.5 million visitors come to Frederick's downtown to shop, dine or do other business annually. Leaders want people to be “able to take advantage of parking without feeling like it's too onerous,” Griffin said.

“We're not D.C.,” Griffin added.

Included among Frederick's voids were also 100 tickets dismissed via Frederick Community College for on-campus infractions. There were also 332 tickets voided for various warnings, including those who may have parked in a loading zone or during bad weather, and an additional 79 dismissed for people who parked in places where new signs had been posted.  Twenty-two tickets were voided by Frederick County District Court, according to data provided by the city.

For fiscal 2013, which ran from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, the city added about $636,872 in revenue from 31,390 tickets written for various parking violations, Griffin said. The city does not track ticket revenue on a calendar-year basis.

“The vast majority of people that get parking tickets pay them,” Griffin said.

The city has four people who enforce parking regulations during daytime hours when meters are in operation. After that, it's up to the police department to enforce parking rules at its discretion within the city, Griffin said.

Brunswick police voided 18 tickets in 2013 for a total of $110. The total may not equate to much, but it's not about the money for police Chief Milton Frech.

“Parking tickets is not a money-making venture for the city,” Frech said. “It's mainly to gain compliance.”

With a popular MARC commuter line close to downtown, the cost of not enforcing parking could be borne on Brunswick businesses, he said.

“With the commuter lot here, if we don't enforce the parking, the commuters will park on the streets,” he said.

The department's officers write the tickets, Frech said, adding that he had written six on a hot July day while walking around the city.

“It gave me a chance to be outside,” Frech said.

Most parking tickets voided last year were done so because of dubious functioning of parking meters, according to a review of voided tickets provided by the city. Extreme cold or heat can zap batteries that run the meters, setting the timing off, Frech said. Employees test the devices twice per month.

Brunswick will void the tickets over legitimate complaints, but Frech said he doesn't “want to be the judge.”

“If they truly believe that they have a legitimate reason why that ticket shouldn't have been issued, that's the purpose of the courts,” he said.

Brunswick doesn't separate parking ticket revenue from other fines collected by the department, City Hall office manager Carrie Myers said. Police there collected a total $3,135 in fines last year. Frech estimated about 95 percent of that revenue resulted from parking tickets. The city writes about 35 parking tickets per month for between 350 to 500 total per year, he said.

In Thurmont, eight parking tickets were voided in 2013, according to records provided by the police. Seven of the tickets totaled $90. Another's penalty could not be discerned. Total revenue from parking tickets in Thurmont for calendar 2013 was $970, said Tracy Schur, the city's chief financial officer.

At least five of the tickets dismissed in Thurmont were given to someone with a handicapped placard.

Police Chief Greg Eyler said the handicapped voids resulted because the placard was improperly displayed or the officer did not see it.

Eyler said the department averages about 10 to 12 tickets per month at the city's parking meters. The agency is responsible for handling the city's tickets. For the most part, handling tickets in Thurmont is fairly easy, Eyler said.

“People blame us for their not putting money in the meter,” he said.

A couple reasons why there may be so few parking tickets issued in Thurmont is lack of interest in paying to leave a car at a meter as well as availability of spaces. Thurmont Main Street Director Vickie Grinder said building repair and beautification projects intended to draw people downtown have blocked some spaces, while at the same time, the city recently put up new signs directing people to a lot offering free parking.

“We're trying to become more visitor-friendly,” Grinder said.

Vehicles with Maryland license plates racked up the largest number of voided parking tickets in Frederick County, with 4,172 of 4,744 negated citations.

Here's the top five states and how much money each accounted for:

(3) comments

gardenwhimsey

I very seldom go downtown during daytime hours as I work out of town Monday thru Saturday but if I ever do get to go downtown, how do I get a ticket voided within 30 minutes of receiving it?

bizness

I'd like to know, too. Useful information nowhere to be found in the article. Way to go FNP.

m21701m

The city's trash night parking tickets are a scam to city home owners. They claim that the tickets were for cars parked during street sweeping yet were lucky to get the streets swept once a month. They issued ticket after ticket but the reason for the ticket was null and void. A lot of them were voided or tossed out of court. So the city changed the verbage on the tickets to say maintenence. Parking tickets should not be a protected revenue stream. Changing the ticket wording just so they can continue to issue then is further proof it's a scam. Also they love to issue tickets on evenings after it snows. Many times the city has failed to properly clear the alley ways where people park. Last year we spent hours digging out a parking spot to then not having a place to park on street sweeping night and finding a nice 25 dollar ticket on the windshield.

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