Friday, September 12, 2008

Fighting the two-hour shuffle

Parking tickets pile up in Ketchum

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum’s top 10 unpaid parking ticket people.

There's a "habitual offenders hot sheet" at the Ketchum Police Department. It's a list of people with outstanding parking tickets, and the top 10, as it stood during the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 10, owed the city $5,121 for 135 tickets.

By Thursday, however, that number changed to $4,938 and 129 tickets. Two people on the top-10 list, No. 3 Kari Young and No. 10 Susan Teren, hopped off the list by paying their debts in full.

New to the top 10, then, were Katrina and Greg Sharp, with nine outstanding tickets and $355 in fines, and Bronwyn Patterson with eight outstanding tickets and $349 in fines.

Chagrin, anger, frustration and sadness were among the constellation of emotions expressed by those contacted about their parking infractions. None, however, wished to discuss the issue further, because they said it would draw more attention toward an already uncomfortable situation.

Ketchum Police Department spokeswoman Kim Rogers also pointed out that the parking tickets go with vehicles, not the people to whom vehicles are registered.

Nevertheless, the person to whom a vehicle is registered is responsible for the fines.

Rogers said parking ticket records were cleared near the turn of the century "because no one paid for so long that it was un-collectable debt totaling thousands and thousands of dollars."

Sgt. Dave Kassner is the Ketchum Police Department's parking guru. He said he's spent the past six to seven months attempting to quantify who owes, and how much, for parking infractions. When that byzantine, difficult task is completed the information will be forwarded to a Denver-based company for collection.

Parking fine collections are a difficult animal unto itself, Kassner said, but he added that the most problematic part of the parking situation in Ketchum is created by downtown employees who attempt to park all day in two-hour parking zones, which were established to create automobile turnover near businesses.

"It's the Ketchum shuffle, the two-hour shuffle," Kassner said.

The Ketchum City Council, closed a loophole recently by changing the city's parking ordinance to prevent people from playing the two-hour shuffle when they moved from one side of a street to another, Kassner said.

"Our community service officers [parking enforcers] walk into a block, and all of a sudden all these cars start moving," Kassner said.

And just as there are people who have unpaid parking tickets there are many who regularly acquire tickets and pay them as a matter of doing business in downtown Ketchum.

"There are people who acquire thousands of dollars of tickets here, and they pay," Kassner said. "But it's worth it to them, to park."

In Ketchum's two-hour parking zones, a first ticket is free, and a second is $25. The third ticket and above is $52 each, Kassner said.

"The ideal is that when someone drives into town and wants to go to a store there's a parking place within 25 to 30 feet," Kassner said. "Parking tickets are not to generate revenue."

Kassner said the city's two community service officers are hired to perform an array of public information and code enforcement tasks, but 95 percent of their time is spent doing parking enforcement.

Kassner said the city should continue to consider paid parking in the downtown core. It would encourage vehicle turnover and facilitate easier regulation. Additionally, both Rogers and Kassner said the city may soon begin to "boot" cars for which multiple unpaid parking tickets are on the books.

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