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Columbia residents set to pay more for parking violations

The Columbia City Council voted to keep taxi stands on local streets.
The Columbia City Council voted to keep taxi stands on local streets.

The Columbia City Council passed parking-fine rate hikes as part of the annual budget for 2015 last night.

The decision increases initial parking fines to $15 in un-metered locations and to $30 in metered locations. The city projects that the new fines will create $320,000 in new revenue.

First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick voted against the measure. She said it will punish residents who pay their fines.

"I think it's important that we as a city make sure that we have good policy in place to effectively collect issued tickets before we consider raising the fines," Chadwick said.

She said that 52,000 of 190,000 tickets are unpaid and wants to look into what other cities are doing to consistently collect parking fines.

"The city doesn't really have a good mechanism in place to make sure that we're following up with the people who receive parking tickets and collecting that fine from them," Chadwick said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Karl Skala said that notifying residents of their parking fines will increase payment accountability.

"In my history, being in Columbia for the past 30 years or so, I've picked up three or four parking fines and it's a very rare occurrence in my memory that I was sent notification that there was even a fine," Skala said.

Both councilmembers agree that funding is needed for public safety. Skala said that the new revenue will provide funding for salaries and equipment for three additional police officers.

"At any given time, we only have about eight officers on duty for the whole city of Columbia, so we're looking at how we can generate revenue to increase our public safety," Chadwick said.

The budget goes into effect Oct. 1.