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Latrobe council addresses new parking-ticket policy

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Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Until Latrobe City Council chooses to formalize a policy, anyone who appeals a parking ticket must go before a district judge.

Council members and City Manager Alex Graziani addressed the issue at Tuesday night's meeting.

Jim Gebicki, a former mayor, again questioned the number of dismissed tickets, which had been the responsibility of the police chief but is now the task of the city manager.

Since 2012, Graziani has attempted to formalize the unwritten practice of dismissing tickets on a case-by-case basis. In July, the policy required a completed form,

The most recent change prohibits city staff from dismissing the tickets.

Gebicki said he is concerned that the changes were made without council's approval.

“However council approaches that, I think you're justified in what you do, and you need to do it because we continually revisit this same situation,” he commented during the meeting. “There may not be anything wrong with any single one of those tickets, but the fact it was done outside council approval, outside an ordinance, outside any oversight by this council as a whole is problematic, in my estimation.”

Councilwoman Rosie Wolford said the practice should be formalized by council so that visitors aren't discouraged from returning to Latrobe.

“I'm sure we've had this practice for many, many years, and the city has always looked at each specific incident and decided whether or not a mistake was made. ... There are a lot of reasons why we want to be friendly with people who come to this city,” said Wolford, who will take office as mayor in January.

She said she agreed with the policy that included a required form and believes council should adopt it. Until then, she said, she trusts Graziani's judgment.

Councilman Robert “Stuffy” Forish asked why the same license plate had been forgiven 24 tickets this year.

The city manager said the requests come to his desk without that identifying information, but it is recorded for the police department.

“I don't know the plate itself; I don't know the person. ... They were pretty much coming in to my desk anonymously,” he said, offering to check with police Chief James Bumar. The chief did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Wolford called Gebicki's requests a witch hunt, saying council should be spending time on the city's finances.

“I think the thing that concerns me the most is this is not going to balance our budget,” she said. “This is not something that is going to turn things around here. We will fix and develop a policy so that this is addressed and addressed appropriately.”

So far in 2013, Latrobe has made $280,000 in parking revenue, Graziani said.

Ticket fines accounted for 10 percent, he said. The amount recovered if the dismissed tickets had been paid is 1 percent of that revenue, or $2,800.

“Where you are making money in parking is in working meters and compliance. ... You don't make money off of fines,” Graziani said.

Wolford said until the policy is formally changed, visitors would have to request any ticket changes at the district judge's office.

“Until directed otherwise from this council in a formal vote and policy, I see no reason to do anything differently,” she said. “But whether we made a mistake or not, let it go to the magistrate and allow the customer to have the inconvenience of taking it that way.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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