Parking fine collections drop in Warren

WARREN – The amount of money the city is collecting in parking fines has dropped four of the last five years. The city received $26,338 in parking fines in 2008. In 2012, that had dropped to $19,016.72.

City officials want to know why.

“This could be a good thing,” Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said. “It could mean that people are following our parking laws and there are fewer tickets being given.”

However, if this is a problem of collection, the administration wants to find out what is happening and why the money is not making it into the city’s coffers.

“While we do not consider parking violations a revenue source, we want all money owed to the city paid for whatever fines are due,” Franklin said.

Warren Parking Systems LLC is in charge of parking in the downtown area, including the parking deck, in two other parking lots, and making sure parking laws in the downtown commercial business district are followed.

WPS is headed by Anthony Iannuccci Jr., who is also is the director of Sunshine of Trumbull County Inc., and Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp., both of which are nonprofit agencies.

Employees of WPS patrol the downtown area, issuing tickets to vehicles that are illegally parked. WPS employees also patrol the city’s two surface parking lots, including a lot next to the Warren SCOPE Center, 220 W. Market St., and a lot located behind Warren’s main Post Office, 201 High St. N.W.

The Market Street lot generally is not used. The High Street lot has about 35 regular customers who work in the Trumbull County Jobs and Family Services, and 24 spaces for people who work in a High Street office building next to the post office. It has about 10 other available spaces.

WPS’ three-year contract with the city ended last month, but was extended to Sept. 30. It operates the two lots as well as the four-story, 418-space Franklin Street parking deck, and monitors central business district parking.

Iannucci said among money-saving measures was to reduce the number of hours street parking monitors work, from 80 hours per week to 60.

Josh Nativio, who has worked on Market Street for 15 years, said, “It seems that in the past when other companies had the (parking) contract, the street enforcers had more of a presence on the the street. They were on the street for a full eight hours a day.”

Tim Drummond, owner of Artistics, 169 W. Market St., counters that he sees parking officers all of the time in front of his store.

“I think they do a good job,” he said.

Nick Terbovich, a local bail bondsman, said the city should review its two-hour parking rules.

“It is not right that I stop at Saratoga for lunch and move my vehicle to my office on North Park to pick up a few items and get a ticket,” Terbovich said.

Monte Villers, a co-owner of Courthouse Grille, 176 N. Park Ave., said he received two tickets during the time he and his wife were opening the new downtown restaurant.

“In each case, we did not know the rules,” Villers said. “We think it is cheaper to pay $35 per month to park in a lot behind our store.”

Villers says a multi-level parking deck should be on High Street and North Park, which is closer to the the courts and the county’s administration buildings.

“The city’s deck is too far away,” he said.

Jim Cicchillo once held the contract for the parking enforcement.

“When we were doing it, there was a Michigan company that was doing the billing and sending out the late notices,” Cicchillo said. “It was charging 5 cents per ticket, which I thought was reasonable.”

Billing and collections of parking tickets was turned over to the municipal courts.

“I don’t know why the city is collecting less money in parking ticket fines,” Iannucci said. ”After tickets are issued by parking enforcement employees, the information is sent to the courts for processing.”

According to city regulations, people can park their cars at no cost in downtown’s central business district area for up to two hours each day.

Iannucci said he is encouraging the city to replace the two-hour free parking program with “smart” parking meters that can be programmed to allow customers of retail establishments a period of free parking.

There will still be a need for meter readers patrolling the downtown area, but it removes the ambiguity that people feel when coming into the downtown area and not knowing the city’s regulations, he said.

“While I do think the current system has reduced the number of downtown employees from parking on the street all day, it is a problem with for those who don’t know the rules,” he said.