City seeks li­cense plate reader to nab il­le­gal park­ers

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­pub.com

On Mon­day, city coun­cil was tasked with de­cid­ing whether to au­tho­rize the pur­chase of a li­cense plate reader for the park­ing di­vi­sion so em­ploy­ees can pa­trol spe­cial park­ing districts and place boots on cars with un­paid tick­ets, but ul­ti­mately tabled a vote un­til May when staff will present ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion.

Coun­cil agreed 4 to 3 to dis­cuss the pur­chase in more de­tail on May 22, with coun­cil mem­bers Chris Hamil­ton, Mark More­head and Jen Wal­lace as the op­pos­ing votes.

Park­ing Man­ager Marvin Howard said Mon­day that the city fails to col­lect thou­sands of dol­lars each year in un­paid park­ing fines – $280,000 in 2013 – but could get more of that money back us­ing a Li­cense Plate Recog­ni­tion (LPR) sys­tem mounted on a park­ing di­vi­sion ve­hi­cle.

As the em­ployee drives, Howard ex­plained, the cam­era would scan cars’ li­cense plates and alert the em­ployee of scofflaw park­ers, de­fined in city code as those who owe $75 or more in un­paid tick­ets to the city of Ne­wark. The em­ployee would then be able to place a boot on the car, pre­vent­ing it from be­ing driven and forc­ing the driver to pay his or her fines.

The LPR is ex­pected to cost $57,960, but Howard said once the city starts col­lect­ing more fees, of­fi­cials should see a re­turn on the in­vest­ment within nine months.

Wal­lace, how­ever, was un­com­fort­able with city em­ploy­ees driv­ing around “hunt­ing for this money.”

“It’s un­wel­com­ing,” she said. “I re­ally see this as some­thing that’s re­ally go­ing to up­set peo­ple and I think it un­nec­es­sar­ily in­vades their pri­vacy, and I’m not in fa­vor.”

More­head agreed, adding that he has re­ceived sev­eral calls from res­i­dents ask­ing him not to ap­prove this.

Howard ex­plained that the cam­era could also be used to man­age the spe­cial res­i­den­tial park­ing dis- tricts, which gen­er­ally in­clude res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods near the Univer­sity of Delaware cam­pus. Only res­i­dents with park­ing per­mits and guests with passes are al­lowed to park in th­ese ar­eas, but many stu­dents and vis­i­tors park there il­le­gally.

He said the LPR would al­low the park­ing em­ployee to eas­ily iden­tify those il­le­gal park­ers and is­sue them tick­ets.

Per­mits for spe­cial park­ing districts are free and cur­rently avail­able in the Ne­wark Po­lice De­part­ment, but Howard said that would change if the park­ing di­vi­sion gets an LPR. He said the per­mit­ting process would move to the park­ing di­vi­sion and the phys­i­cal per­mits would be elim­i­nated, sav­ing the city money and fur­ther stream­lin­ing the de­part­ment.

New res­i­dents will be able to reg- is­ter their car on­line through the city web­site and those who cur­rently have a per­mit with the city will be au­to­mat­i­cally en­tered into the new sys­tem. Tem­po­rary guest passes will also be avail­able on­line, which Howard said will elim­i­nate any mis­use and likely free up more street park­ing.

He rec­om­mended coun­cil waive the bid process and buy the LPR through T2 Sys­tems, which the city al­ready uti­lizes as its park­ing man­age­ment sys­tem, be­cause the cam­era hard­ware needs to con­nect to the city’s ex­ist­ing soft­ware.

Most of the fund­ing for the cam­era is avail­able in the cap­i­tal bud­get, but $10,110 will come out of the park­ing re­serve fund, Howard said. Af­ter the first year, an­nual sub­scrip­tion costs start­ing at $6,780 and in­creas­ing ap­prox­i­mately 1.6 per­cent each year will be bud­geted for in the city’s op­er­at­ing bud­get.

But Coun­cil­man Luke Chap­man wasn’t on board with Howard’s plan. He said res­i­dents like the per­mit de­cals and phys­i­cal guest passes be­cause it helps them see who be­longs on their street and who doesn’t.

He sug­gested the city sur­vey the res­i­dents liv­ing in th­ese districts to see how they feel be­fore coun­cil pro­ceeds, and Mayor Polly Sierer agreed.

She said staff needs to do “sig­nif­i­cant out­reach” be­fore chang­ing the process and come up with op­tions for older res­i­dents who may not use the com­puter.

Coun­cil­man Stu Markham said he would like to know how ef­fec­tive the equip­ment has been in other cities and how Ne­wark’s re­turn on in­vest­ment was cal­cu­lated.

NE­WARK POST FILE PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

The city’s park­ing di­vi­sion is seek­ing to buy an au­to­matic li­cense plate reader to scan li­cense plates and find driv­ers with un­paid park­ing tick­ets.

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