Angry residents are calling for the city not to renew its parking enforcement contract with Diamond Parking.
Their complaints: There is no appeals process and a parking ticket is followed immediately by a notice from an out-of-town collection agency. The collection agency is difficult to reach, people say.
Parking is enforced six days a week in the summer vs. five days a week in the winter, but that fact isn’t posted anywhere.
On top of all this, computer glitches saddled more than 300 people with a $12.50 collection fee on top of their $10 parking fine. Such fees are illegal in the state of Idaho.
Another 150 people ended up with delinquent notices even though they had paid their tickets, said John Austin, city finance director. In some cases, the notices went to people who never had been ticketed in the first place, he said.
Mistake or not, it enraged people. “I think it’s inexcusable to be that sloppy,” said Susan Snedaker, who hasn’t received a ticket but is hearing horror stories from her friends. One acquaintance received a second delinquency notice before getting the first.
“It’s unjust to give somebody a ticket and not give them an appeals process and not post the hours of enforcement,” added John Thamm, a local artist who has been battling Diamond and its collection agencies for a year.
“Since Diamond is ultimately responsible, they shouldn’t have their contract renewed.”
Thamm has spent hours combing through Diamond’s contract and discovered that the city stipulates that tickets be issued in the downtown area between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the winter. Come summer, enforcement extends to Saturday.
Downtown signs don’t share that information and he wonders if it’s a way of fleecing tourists. “If you are are going to park somewhere, it’s nice to know if you are parking legally or illegally,” Thamm said.
“They are relying on the fact that very few people will go to the effort to pursue this.”
Diamond Parking officials say posting parking enforcement hours is up to the city. The glitches that added collection fees or sent tickets to the undeserving were unfortunate, said Dan Geiger, Spokane area manager.
It happened mid-year last year when the company switched collection agencies. “Diamond Parking is willing to stand by and get these things corrected,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to walk away unhappy.”
Geiger said there is an appeals process, accessed by either calling Diamond or City Hall.
Drico Recovery Services, which took over as collection agency for Diamond in August, also said the additional $12.50 collection fee was a computer problem. But no one received a collection notice who didn’t deserve one, manager Bryan Lewis insisted.
City officials have high praise for Diamond’s performance and will recommend the City Council renew Diamond’s contract for another year, with the stipulation that a local phone number for Diamond be printed on the tickets along with the toll-free telephone number for the collection agency.
Diamond has been doing the job since August 1995. Before the city contracted for parking enforcement, it cost Coeur d’Alene an additional $10,000 a year to make sure people weren’t camping in their downtown spaces.
In addition, the single parking employee wrote tickets only in the morning and did collections in the afternoon, Austin said. Now Diamond does enforcement all day and has a collection agency pursue the money.
It’s a more efficient route toward issuing about 6,500 tickets a year and collecting the approximately $75,000 in parking fines, Austin said.
There is an appeals process - through City Hall - and he’s surprised people don’t know about it. The collection agency has explicit instructions to detail the process to people who call with complaints, he said.
Austin acknowledges that there are no signs telling people that summertime enforcement is six days a week. He defends the seasonal difference on the grounds that there is lots more traffic and lots more trouble in summer.
Fleecing tourists? “I can say we probably have better compliance from tourists than local residents,” he said.
In other business the council will:
Consider awarding a contract for logging Tubbs Hill to Idaho Forest Industries. IFI presented the best overall package among four proposals and is giving the city more assurance it will make some money from the logging, said Karen Hinson, the city forester.
Vote on whether to ask the EPA to approve the the least-restrictive particulate standards for particulates as part of new clean air rules.
Award a contract for Phase 2 of the Honeysuckle Avenue well project, including installing a pump and building the pump house.
Consider allowing larger signs in some instances for home businesses.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Meeting The City Council will meet today at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
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