New technology is helping track down parking scofflaws at Fairfield's railroad stations, including one commuter who owes more than $9,000 in unpaid tickets.
About two dozen rail commuters without permits have been parking in day-parking spots at the downtown Fairfield and Southport railroad stations, but repeatedly fail to pay the $6 fee, according to town officials.
The largest day-parking amount owed is a $9,000 accumulated bill, which is now being pursued by the town attorney. The fee reflects several years of unpaid fees and fines, officials said, on three different cars registered to Janet Haller of Morehouse Road in Easton. Haller, who is the principal member of Haller Enterprises, LLC, could not be reached for comment.
According to town officials, one of Haller's cars began accumulating day-parking tickets in 2008 that have not been paid.
To crack down on scofflaws with large unpaid bills, the Police Commission on Wednesday adopted regulations that will allow police to treat parking tickets issued at the train stations just like those issued anywhere else in town.
"It's not fair to the person who pays and does it the right way," Commissioner Arthur Hersh said of commuters who promptly pay the $6 day-parking fee.
Now, anyone with more than $250 in unpaid rail day-parking fees will not be allowed to park at either of the two town-managed train stations. If they do, they will be issued a $35 standard parking fine instead of the $6 parking fee and, if the overdue fees remain unpaid, their vehicle could be towed or immobilized by a boot. Day parkers have 10 days to pay the $6 fee before an additional $10 late fee is added.
The scofflaws were discovered when a new ticketing software system was instituted on Dec. 7 by the Parking Authority. Day-parking tickets are printed using the new hand-held devices, which also indicate whether there are any outstanding fees owed by the vehicle's owner.
Commissioner Norma Peterson asked if changing the regulations will mean more commuters will pay up.
"We have many more mechanisms than the Parking Authority has to collect," Deputy Police Chief Chris Lyddy said. "We have nearly a 100 percent recovery rate on our side. This would be a step toward that."
He said that with standard parking tickets police rarely have had to resort to immobilizing a vehicle with a boot to force the owner to pay the amount owed.
Hersh suggested the town notify the state about commuters who reach that $250 threshold so that they cannot simply move over to the new Fairfield Metro depot. The state manages that rail station.
Parking Authority Chairman Ron Pine said local officials would pass along that notification, but it was pointed out that at the Fairfield Metro station, daily fees are collected on the way into the parking lot.
Cindy Placko, the Parking Authority's manager, said letters have been sent to commuters with unpaid day-parking fees. "Today I got a check for $1,900," she said.
Previously, envelopes were put on cars for day parking fees and the authority's older software did not allow the agency to track outstanding fees.
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