Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Police: Lower the $100 idling fine

Ketchum PD asks council to reduce ‘stiff’ penalty

Express Staff Writer

A driver leaves an SUV idling in Ketchum. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum's Police Department was supposed to—beginning in October—hand out $100 tickets to people idling their vehicles longer than three minutes. However, officers have only issued warnings, waiting until it can request that the City Council lower the fine.

The City Council will consider the Police Department's request at its meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. The council adopted the ordinance in October 2009 due to cars often left idling in front of the post office and Atkinsons' Market as drivers went inside. The council established a one-year education period before having officers ticket people.

"One hundred dollars is pretty stiff for a first violation, and $300 for every violation thereafter," Sgt. Nathan Taylor said in an interview.

Police Chief Steve Harkins is out of town this week and couldn't be reached.

The first offense for idling is four times higher than the $25 ticket for exceeding parking time limits on city streets, and the first citation for breaking the time-limit parking rule is just a warning. The third citation and beyond for breaking the time limit is $52, compared to $300 for idling.


Police want the council to make the idling-fine structure identical to that of time-limit tickets. If that happens, the first offense for idling would earn a warning, the second offense a $25 ticket and $52 thereafter.

The ordinance allows vehicles to idle longer than three minutes to prevent damage to a vehicle or prevent dangerous situations, such as an iced-over windshield. However, a car cannot be left running "solely for the comfort of the driver or passengers." For that reason, the problem of idling cars is exacerbated during winter months when people merely want to warm the interior, which is why the ordinance was adopted in October, when the weather began to cool.

Former Councilman Charles Conn said at the time of adoption that he often saw idling cars, and that it's a problem "all over this town."

"I encountered two today," he said. "One was a giant diesel truck spewing fumes outside the post office."

The council asserted at the time of the ordinance's adoption that the need is to improve "regional air quality."

"The idea is not [for it] to be a revenue enhancer," said Councilman Larry Helzel at the ordinance's second reading in September 2009.

Despite the Police Department's desire to lower the fine amount, the community didn't show much opposition to the ordinance at any of the council's three readings before its October 2009 adoption. But, then again, nobody has yet been handed a $100 ticket for leaving the engine on for a few minutes.

Trevon Milliard:

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