Parking Services changed their enforcement policy over Winter Break to clamp down on repeat offenders, especially those who owe as much as $2,000 in unpaid fines and late fees.Anybody owing more than $200 in fines and fees will be barred from campus parking entirely and will be subject to the boot and towing. Additionally, students who do not pay tickets within one month will have a hold placed on their account.
Before the new rules, Parking Services' enforcement policy sent notices via mail for five months before sending the claim to a collection agency. Student offenders would have a hold placed on their account after five months. UMD has over 11,000 students and 1,900 faculty staff but the majority of repeat offenders have been faculty and staff. There was no recourse if a faculty or staff member refused to pay under the old system.
"Not everyone pays attention to notifications from a collection agency," said Patrick Keenan, director of student life operations. "There are some people who just don't pay tickets. Ticket number one becomes ticket number two and so on." Keenan said the new enforcement policies are intended to free up parking spaces for those who follow the rules. Another avenue of enforcing parking violations is garnishing wages, without a court order, of those who owe more than $200. For most unpaid liabilities a court order is required to garnish wages, but Keenan said the measure was approved by the University of Minnesota's General Counsel.
"We haven't used (garnishment) yet and we're still developing that process," he said. The garnishment policy applies to students, faculty and staff. Faculty and staff were notified of the new enforcement policies last week. "I received a number of responses (to the notification) directly, all very positive, very encouraging," Keenan said. "All from individuals who didn't owe us any money," he added with a laugh.
Students also received the news positively once they were told how much some repeat offenders owed. "Yikes, I didn't realize it was such a problem," senior Madeline McDonald said. She has never received a ticket but thinks it is easy to get one. "I understand the need (to park illegally) to get to class on time," McDonald said. Senior Chris Eckhoff agrees with that sentiment. "Even if you show up 10 minutes early, sometimes it's impossible to find a spot and be in class on time." Eckhoff often allots an extra 15 minutes to park during peak hours, which he says is between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Students said metered spots had caused them the most problems, typically because they did not have quarters for the meter.
"An electronic system for the meters would be nice," Eckhoff said. Changing the meters to accept a student ID or a credit card was a common idea amongst students.
"At least have (the meters) accept a dollar bill. That would be ideal," said McDonald.
BY JOHN FAHNENSTIEL Staff Reporter