City collects $3.6 million in parking fine amnesty

October 22, 2003|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A once-in-a-decade chance to duck parking ticket late fees prompted about 50,000 delinquent motorists to dust off old citations and open their wallets - forking over $3.6 million in fines while avoiding $32.7 million in penalties.

Drivers paid off 107,321 tickets - some dating back to the William Donald Schaefer administration - during the two-day amnesty program, which had lines wrapping around the block this month at downtown's Abel Wolman Municipal Building.

Saddled with the task of opening 35,000 letters from drivers who settled their debts by mail, city officials took a week and a half to determine how many people participated in the amnesty on Oct. 9 and 10.

But in announcing the figures yesterday, officials took pride in how efficiently they had handled crowds over the two-day period. It helped that people were given the option of paying by mail and at Global Express Money Order outlets around the city, they said.

"We were prepared for them," said Stanley J. Milesky, chief of the Bureau of Treasury Management.

The tickets dated as far back as 1982 or 1983 - three mayors ago.

"One man brought in a ticket [from the early 1980s] that looked like it had been issued yesterday," Milesky said.

People paying old tickets at the Wolman Building were in line until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. in 1999, during the last amnesty, which was much smaller - 5,854 citations were paid and $237,196 collected.

This time, drivers endured four-hour waits, but the queues were gone by the close of the normal business day.

The City Council passed the parking amnesty bill in August, with members saying they wanted to give drivers a break at a time when the city was increasing ticket fines.

Critics complained that the cash-starved city could ill afford to forgive late fees. Mayor Martin O'Malley opposed the idea but did not veto the bill.

The council bill said the city would not offer another amnesty for at least 10 years.

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