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York City Council will consider extending grace period for parking meter fines

Maria Yohn
York Dispatch
This parking meter in the WeCo district was painted by someone who apparently was very optimistic about its passersby.

The York City Council might decide whether drivers will receive extra time to pay parking meter tickets during the Tuesday, April 3, legislative meeting.

The item was placed on the agenda after Mayor Michael Helfrich presented his proposal to extend the five-day payment deadline during the council's Wednesday, March 28, committee meeting.

Helfrich told the council that the city ordinance, Article 509, actually establishes an eight-day deadline to pay parking tickets, not five days as he and other officials had believed. 

The mayor said he would like to change the ordinance to allow 14 days for drivers to pay parking tickets for meter violations. He will address other parking fines, such as those for street-sweeping violations, at a future council meeting, he said. 

Council president Henry Nixon asked how many days the driver would have until the ticket was turned over to a district magistrate and how much the fine would increase.

More:York City mayor wants to give people more time to pay parking tickets

More:EDITORIAL: People who get parking tickets need a break

Helfrich said that drivers now receive a warning card and a $20 fine from the city in addition to the $20 ticket when they miss the deadline for payment, and they are notified that they have 30 days from the time of the offense to pay the ticket. If the ticket is turned over to a district magistrate, the individual could face more than $100 in fines and court costs, he said.

However, Helfrich acknowledged that the city has to submit tickets to the magistrate by the end of that 30-day window or they lose the opportunity to collect the money.

"The magistrates have been very strict about the city having our ducks in a row regarding tickets," he said.

Therefore, it will remain vitally important for the city to submit fines to the magistrates on the 28th or 29th days, despite the deadline extension for payments, he said. If an individual pays the fine immediately before the 30-day deadline, the district magistrates drop the case, he said.

More:White Rose to charge for parking

Helfrich also told the council that drivers are regularly granted extensions on ticket deadlines because of extenuating circumstances. 

"We're actually trying to eliminate that. It's an unequal system," he said.

He said  the 14-day deadline is fair to most people and can be applied across the board. 

Helfrich is shown here with Police Chief Troy Bankert, providing information about a morning police-involved shooting in Harrisburg in which York Police Officer Kyle Pitts was wounded, Thursday January 18, 2018. US Marshal Christopher Hill was killed during the incident and a Harrisburg officer was also wounded. John A. Pavoncello photo

Background: Helfrich announced his goal to amend the parking ticket ordinance during a March 5 Facebook Live address to his constituents. In order to achieve that, he needs the approval of the council. 

Helfrich argued that the five-day deadline disproportionately punishes lower-income individuals who live "paycheck to paycheck." The mayor said that he has received numerous complaints from individuals who received parking tickets and were unable to pay them until they received their next paycheck. 

"What folks said to me made a lot of sense. Five days doesn't even give some people enough time to get a paycheck to get the money, and the cost rises," he said during his address.

York City Councilman Henry Nixon gives the first responders memorial tribute during the 2016 Court of Valor & Safekeepers Shrine Ceremony with York's Observance of the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 at Prospect Hill Cemetery in North York, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At the time, Nixon responded to Helfrich's proposal in an interview, arguing that five days was "ample time" to pay a parking ticket.

"My first reaction was, 'Why?'" he said.

"I'm pretty strong about folks that do something that's against the law, regardless of how petty or small," he said.

More:Editorial: Fix parking in York City

Currently, parking fines range from $20 for a meter violation to $100 for blocking a fire hydrant. The average fine is $25, according to the York City website.

Nearby Harrisburg allows drivers up to four days to pay parking fines, but Lancaster follows the model Helfrich is proposing, allowing drivers up to 15 days to pay parking fines.