Lehigh Valley

Half-price amnesty parking ticket program gets cold shoulder from scofflaws in Easton

The results of a 50 percent discount "amnesty" program for more than 10,000 way-past due parking tickets in Easton were announced Monday night to City Council.

The data revealed it was pretty much a flop.

More than 90 percent of the pile of unpaid tickets, totaling about $719,000, were still unpaid at the end of the program, according to figures released by Cassandra Willliams, the director of finance.

If those tickets had been paid at the special half-price deal, the city would have collected about $359,000

The city didn't collect anything close to that amount, she said.

Only about 1,000 tickets were paid under the amnesty program, she said, and that resulted in about $36,000 going into city coffers.

"It didn't work to our benefit as much as we wanted it to," said council member Sandra Vulcano.

That doesn't mean the scofflaws are off the hook.

Police Chief Carl Scalzo said patrol cars are on the lookout for the deadbeats, using an electronic device that can read a license plate and determine in real time through a ping if the car has more than $250 worth of unpaid parking tickets.

Scalzo said those vehicles are "booted" and left immobile until all the fines are paid.

There was some discussion on whether the majority of those vehicles are from out of the area or out of state. Council member Peter Melan, the author of the amnesty program, estimated about 40 percent are from outside Easton.

"We have some pretty heavy hitters in the area," Melan said.

Parking fines and parking meter collections are no small matter in the city's finances. Parking meter revenue for the first eight months of the year totaled about $743,000, up $116,000 over the same period last year, Williams said. Parking fines are expected to exceed last year's $754,000 total.

In another matter, council received an update on a West Ward facade program from the city's Economic and Community Development office.

The city is facing a Friday deadline to apply for a $50,000 grant that will be earmarked for about eight properties in need of work. The program involves a 50/50 funding split that requires the property owner to pay for half the cost of the repairs.

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