If you haven’t paid your parking tickets while parked in the city of Brainerd — you will.
The city is utilizing the Revenue Recapture Act, legislation the Minnesota Department of Revenue (MDR) enacted in 1980. The legislation allows the state to recapture taxpayer funds and apply them to debts taxpayers owe to other state agencies, the University of Minnesota and to certain governmental units.
Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston said the city began the process of filing the claims with the MDR in February. McQuiston said the initiative began in the fall when Bob Olson, Brainerd City Council member, asked how the city was doing in collecting unpaid parking tickets. McQuiston said he received council support to find a way to collect fines and that is when he found out information about the Revenue Recapture Act.
McQuiston said fines will come out of an offenders’ state tax returns when they file in 2013.
“The city of Brainerd has a history of people not paying their parking fines,” McQuiston said. “We have people who have caught on to that (and) we really were not able to do anything besides having their vehicle towed. It has been frustrating. We needed a better way to handle these fines.
“We are trying to establish fairness, as we have people who abide by the fines and those who don’t. We want everyone to be treated fairly.”
McQuiston said there are 14 people who have five or more unpaid parking tickets from between 2007 and 2011. McQuiston said of those five people, two individuals have eight unpaid parking tickets and owe $400 each.
McQuiston said from March of 2007 to September of 2011, the city has a total of 577 unpaid parking tickets totalling about $28,645 in fines. McQuiston said some partial payments have been made. On average over the past four months, McQuiston said the city has written out about 92 parking tickets per month.
A warning letter was sent to the last known address of the individuals with outstanding parking fines, informing them that a new collection process was being implemented and attempting to give them a final opportunity to satisfy the unpaid fines, said McQuiston. If they don’t pay the fine, a claim will be filed.
McQuiston said most of the parking tickets are issued in downtown Brainerd in the two-hour parking zones.
“We know parking downtown is a challenge,” said McQuiston. “You have people living there, visitors shopping and those who work downtown. We know parking is not always as convenient as some would like but people have a choice on where to park.”
McQuiston said people can park a few blocks away during the day, where they would be outside of the two-hour restriction zone. However, not everyone has done that. The two-hour parking zones are in effect Monday through Fridays during the day. The two-hour parking is not enforced at night, on weekends or on holidays.
“It is our hope that this aspect of parking enforcement will compliment the recent improvements to the downtown area of Brainerd and help address this problem,” said McQuiston. “Ultimately our overall goal is to gain compliance with the parking rules and we hope that this will be a deterrent for the habitual violators.”