A bill passed in the Alaska Legislature three years ago has forced the Kodiak City Council to discuss amending certain aspects of city code. In April, a law that mandates police officers personally serve citations went into effect across the state, which caused some unforeseen consequences in the area of parking enforcement.
Like many cities across the state, Kodiak handles parking violations through a district court. But when the face-to-face requirement went into effect in April, the courts stopped hearing any cases from violators who weren’t personally served. Basically, the age-old method of leaving a parking ticket under a windshield wiper went out the window. In order to issue a citation, parking enforcers, like the community service officer here in Kodiak, now must wait by a vehicle until the violator returned.
Parking has still been enforced in Kodiak, but according to Police Chief T.C. Kamai, the situation definitely isn’t ideal. That’s why he’s worked with city staff and the city attorney to amend code and put parking violations under the umbrella of the city, not the state. During last night’s city work session, Kamai presented the lengthy ordinance.
“They would essentially
become administrative matter. They would be addressed at the city level.
If someone wanted to appeal or contest a violation they would have the
ability to do that before an administrative hearing officer, who would
be the city manager or someone designated by the city manager to hear it
The ordinance also calls for increasing parking fines from $10 to
$20, which would help offset administrative costs within the city.
Kamai said there is also a long standing issue at the police
department over citations in general. He said some of the citations
officers write are commonly adopted by city ordinance, so essentially
they write it under a particular heading and the fine amounts, when
prosecuted, come back to the city. He said this is a nice cost recovery,
but it’s not always so.
“A large number of the
violations we find ourselves frequently writing, like some of our
speeding, failure to stop violations and things like that aren’t. So
while we may be writing the violation, when those things are disposed of
and if there’s any fines or fees to be collected they’re actually going
directly to the state of Alaska. Even though we’re doing the work.”
Part of the ordinance Kamai helped draft would bring those lost fines and fees back to the city.
“So what we’re asking the
council to do is to consider adopting that entire section of state law,
in its entirety, including the fine amounts, and make them fall under
the city. So that if we’re out there exercising state’s authority, but
our folks and employees are actually doing the work, we think it’s
reasonable to expect that the cost recovery, the fine amounts are going
to come back to us.”
Another part of the ordinance would allow vehicles with a history of
unpaid parking tickets to be towed when parked on public property.
“One of the long standing
problems we had, because the fine amounts were so low, and because we
didn’t really have a good mechanism for compelling people to pay those
fines, or to contest or challenge the ticket, is they just simply
ignored them. And my staff spends an incredible amount of time every
year in a letter writing campaign to people to collect unpaid fines and
fees. So one of the things we’re asking council to consider, and it’s in
the ordinance that’s before you this evening, is to approve a section
of code that would give us the ability for multiple violations, I think
the number is four violations, four unpaid parking tickets, to be able
to seize and impound the motor vehicle, if it’s parked on public
property, and hold it in lieu of the owner of the vehicle paying the
Kamai said the ordinance is dense, and encouraged the council
members to take a close look at it before the next city work session.
City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski said the ordinance is tentatively
scheduled to appear on the August meeting agenda. City Mayor Pat Branson
suggested taking a closer look at the city’s parking plan during the
next work session, to make sure the council felt confident with the
parking rules and restrictions currently in place.