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Wilmington’s new towing contract reignites conversations on parking enforcement

The city’s new contract with City Towing Services adds a towing fee.

In order to have a car released, a person must pay any outstanding fines and a $25 release fee to the city, along with the new $110 towing fee and any accumulated storage fees to CTS.

“Whether we’re talking about booting or towing, you’re taking away a person’s ability to be able to get their child to childcare, make it to school, make it to work, and then you’re expecting them to come up with this money right here right now,” said Wilmington Fines and Fees task force member Ken Grant.

He argues the new $110 fee will only make it harder to pay tickets and lead to more accumulated fees.

Grant believes one possible solution is raising the threshold for towing from $200 to $500.

“I would also just fully support the idea of just stopping the booting and towing of vehicles over unpaid parking tickets, and allow the other measure to take place,” said Grant. “And that measure is the city has a contract with the state to prevent people from reregistering the vehicle through the DMV if they have unpaid parking tickets.”

City Council Member Latisha Bracy has something in the works for one of Grant’s suggestions.

In a Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting last month, she said she is preparing legislation to increase the towing threshold to $500.

“Because $200 is literally two tickets,” said Bracy. “If you get two red light camera tickets you're at the booting threshold. If you get two parking tickets and you don't pay them in time, once you hit all the fees you're at $100 and that gets you the boot. I've had boots myself so I understand the process and you have a finite amount of time to pay in full to get the boot off.”

Wilmington City Council Member James Spadola says he wants to focus on finding ways to prevent people from being towed in the first place.

“To get towed from a city street, there’s a handful of delinquent tickets, there’s boots involved. So it’s how we make a thoughtful parking system that incorporates all of the stakeholders as much as possible. And obviously with all things related to parking there’s a give and take.”

Spadola wants to see a parking study conducted to find out what’s working and what isn’t. He aims to introduce that request as a resolution in an upcoming City Council meeting.

Meanwhile, Council Member Shané Darby has two resolutions onthis week’s council agenda - one seeking an audit of the towing process and policy and the other an assessment of red-light ticketing.

Within the past year, Mayor Mike Purzycki has expressed support for legislative moves to issue fewer parking citations. That includes Council Member Maria Cabrera’s ordinance lowering initial parking fines from $40 to $25, which passed in December.

Spadola says the administration has shown interest in his plan for a parking study.

“The Rossi Group just did it in Rehoboth beach not too long ago, it’s something I’ve been asking for, and I caught word that the Mayor’s office is looking into a parking study, finally,” said Spadola.

But the administration seems to feel differently about Darby’s resolution for an audit.

“There will be no audit because there is no need for an audit,” said Purzycki's deputy chief of staff John Rago in a statement to Delaware Online. “The city’s parking enforcement, booting and towing systems undergo financial audits every year and we issue a red-light camera safety program annual report. It is not clear at all what the sponsor of the council resolution is trying to accomplish.”

As Council works to make changes to the city’s parking policies, Wilmington residents are encouraged to speak out about problems they’ve experienced with the current system.

“One thing I encourage people to do is to reach out if they have an issue with a parking ticket," said Spadola. "That’s how the city gets better. One, because we can identify an issue. And two, ideally we can resolve the parking ticket situation as fairly as possible."

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.