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Delaware Headlines

Wilmington plans parking enforcement reforms on heels of AAA complaints

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Delaware Public Media
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The City of Wilmington plans to reform its parking enforcement system. The announcement follows complaints by AAA Mid-Atlantic about the city’s ticketing, towing and appeals processes. 

 

AAA Mid-Atlantic says the City’s parking enforcement tactics were developed to maximize revenue — but adversely impact drivers.

AAA’s regional director for Public & Government Affairs Jim Lardear presented those concerns to the Public Works and Transportation Committee Monday. He specifically cited insufficient oversight over the City’s towing contractor and a lack of authority in parts of its appeals process. 

“We really didn’t know what was going on, we just knew we were getting a lot of member complaints, complaints from the general public as well. And trying to pull back the thread on what that was, was very difficult to get that information from the city, so we definitely had some concerns.”

The Administration presented a memo to council members Monday outlining several planned “reforms” to the city’s parking enforcement system— including an online appeals process to be implemented by early 2020 and conversion of older meters to kiosks over the next year. 

Lardear expressed concerns about the number of cars booted each year in the city, and said AAA’s questions about the number of towed cars disposed of by the towing company have gone unanswered.  

Brett Taylor of the City’s Finance Department admitted there are a “lot of gaps” in the data the City has been able to obtain from its towing contractor, First State Towing. He says the City has not been able to learn the number of vehicles the contractor has disposed of, but that monthly reports will be among the new requirements in the City’s towing contract when it goes out to bid again next month. 

Taylor says under the current contract, First State Towing is responsible for contacting drivers when their vehicles have been towed. 

“Communication has to go out pretty quickly or yes, the car could be potentially disposed of. The towing contractor should be notifying them ... as soon as they’ve towed it,” he said. “And that is something we’re going to take that out of the contractor’s hands, I think.”

Taylor says more than 400 cars were towed in the city after being booted for parking violations last year, and roughly half of those vehicles were recovered by their owners. 

The City’s budget estimated revenue from parking tickets and booting fees to exceed $3 million in Fiscal Year 2020, a roughly $62,000 increase over the previous year’s budget.

Taylor expects the increase to come from more thorough enforcement. He says the city is negotiating with a preexisting city contractor to undertake analysis and collection of the City’s roughly 67,000 outstanding parking tickets. But he says funds from parking enforcement are a small portion of the city’s overall budget. 

“We don’t consider this to be a primary revenue source for the City of Wilmington,” he said. “We want to make sure that it has enough money to maintain the operation. Our main goal is to make sure that people have available parking spaces.”

Lardear called the planned reforms a “first step” — and said AAA is pleased that the company’s recommendations seem to have been incorporated.

“We just need to see how it’s going to roll out,” he said. “We know that it takes time for things to happen, but we want to be part of the process going forward to make sure these things happen.”

 

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