Back to Home Page

Local Links
Sun Valley Guide
Hemingway in Sun Valley
Real Estate

For the week of January 10 through January 16, 2001

 ‘Two-hour shuffle’

$40 parking tickets in Ketchum’s crystal ball

Express Staff Writer

If you’re prone to receiving parking tickets in Ketchum’s downtown area, brace yourself.

Abusers of the city’s two-hour parking zones could soon face $40 parking fines for multiple infractions. For years, $10 fines have been the norm.

The increase was tentatively adopted by the Ketchum City Council last week.

Two-hour parking zones are enforced Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The new fines would be on an exponential scale based on the number of infractions attributed to a vehicle inside a year’s time. The first infraction would prompt a warning from the police department. Thereafter, a $10 fine would be followed by $20 and $40 fines for the second, third and fourth infractions.

For a fifth violation where four or more citations are unpaid inside a 12-month period, and one of the tickets is delinquent by 90 days or more, a vehicle would be towed, costing the owner $90 plus $20 to $40 worth of administrative fees and payment of all unpaid parking tickets before the vehicle would be returned.

Theoretically, that’s how it would work, explained Ketchum police chief Cal Nevland in an interview.

On Tuesday of last week, Nevland and police code enforcement officer Beverly Hedin presented the plan to Ketchum City Council members, who endorsed it throughout. In fact, council members advocated issuing $80 fines for fifth infractions, but Mayor Guy Coles asked them to reconsider, and they did.

At the meeting’s conclusion, the council unanimously voted, with Councilman Randy Hall absent, to ask city attorney Margaret Simms to redraft the city’s parking ordinance to include the incremental fine scale. The redrafted ordinance is expected back for the council’s review on Jan. 16. The meeting begins at 5 p.m.

At that meeting, said Councilman David Hutchinson, the council may waive the three readings commonly used to adjust or adopt a new ordinance, and adopt the new fine structure.

"This will work," Hutchinson said. "It’s the chronic offenders who are killing us."

According to Nevland, a few people parking in the downtown area’s two-hour zones are tying up spaces all day long on a repeated basis, in some cases moving vehicles every two hours to avoid being ticketed.

He called the car-moving phenomenon the "two-hour shuffle."

"We know they’re doing it," he said.

In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2000, Ketchum police issued approximately 3,000 two-hour parking citations. Of those, approximately 510 went unpaid, and about 90 were issued to vehicles that garnered five or more citations during the year, according to numbers collected by police code enforcement officer Martha Heuston.

During the fiscal year, the city garnered about $43,000 from parking tickets issued in all parking zones.

"The whole purpose of two-hour parking is to make parking available to customers of core businesses," Nevland said. "The majority of the people who need to park there all day are parking outside the core, but there are a few who are trying to beat the system and not walk three blocks.

"They’re willing to take the chance with $10 fines. They’ll [probably] now have to weigh the possibility of a $40 fine against walking several blocks."

In order to implement the new rates, the city will need to adopt what is called a "scoff law," which would be designed to keep ticketed persons from turning their noses up at parking tickets.

According to a memo from Hedin, the city lost about $28,480 in unpaid parking tickets from all its parking zones in the past three calendar years.

The "scoff law" will enable the towing of vehicles upon a fifth offense, thereby ensuring payment by requiring payment before the vehicle would be returned.

The incremental parking fines would not have been possible just six months ago. In September, the police department started using a computerized ticketing system that logs ticketed vehicles into a database each night.

The compiled information is downloaded into portable computer systems that are carried by police officers. When a license plate is entered into the portable unit, the number of times the vehicle has been ticketed prior is immediately shown, and can be added to the equation of how much the person’s fine would be under the pending incremental citations.

The portable unit prints tickets, which are left on windshields as traditional parking citations are.

The police department is leasing the system at $140 a month. To purchase it, Nevland said, would cost about $20,000.

Discussion of increasing parking fines, and even of implementing parking meters, isn’t new at Ketchum City Hall.

In March of last year, city traffic consultant Darrell Wilburn told the city council that for now, the downtown area’s parking availability is adequate, but seven years from now, or earlier, something will have to be done to increase availability.

Building more parking spaces is not the answer, Wilburn said; rather, better management of existing parking is the best solution.

Wilburn presented a report to the council that recommended converting Ketchum’s two-hour parking spaces to paid parking or increasing fines for those who overstay their limits.

"Fifty-dollar tickets and one-hour parking will certainly get rid of the long-term parkers," he said.

As they did last week, the council endorsed the ideas presented in Wilburn’s report.

The average stay for someone parking in Ketchum’s downtown area is one hour, according to the report. About 25 percent of those parking downtown stay longer than an hour.

Wilburn said those who park longer than one hour are taking up a lot of the available parking spaces in town.

"Parking meters are very effective for enforcement," he said. "Metering is a tool and you need to use it as your parking demand requires."

Peak summer traffic, the busiest time in Ketchum, creates 85 percent parking occupancy in an eight-block area of Ketchum’s downtown. He forecast 2 percent growth in parking demand per year, if Ketchum continues to grow at its current pace.

The uncertainty with parking meters, he said, is that "parking meters could discourage people from coming into the downtown area, but if there are no parking spaces, they don’t come anyway."

Nevland said he’s not thrilled about the eventual prospect of parking meters in Ketchum.

"There’s more and more talk of meters," he said. "This (new fine structure) will probably hold that off for a few more years."



Back to Front Page
Copyright © 2000 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.