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Parking fines on the rise

September 21, 2006

Ask almost any UW-River Falls student about parking on or near campus, and the typical response is a combination of grumbling, eye rolling and an occasional profanity.

With this year’s changes to parking citation fees, student response may be even more negative.

Tom Weiss, director for purchasing services, said he understands how UW-RF students feel, but he also knows why the changes to citation fees were made.

“Fines had not been increased in quite a while,” Weiss said.

Higher fines are not the only new aspect of the new parking regulations.

When Weiss began his work with the parking department, a quick look through violation records led him to the decision that something had to be done.”People owed money from five or six years ago,” he said. “They still only owed $25.”

The new addition of an escalating fine for unpaid parking citations is something that Weiss hopes will solve the problem.

“If you don’t pay your parking ticket on time, then you deserve a fine,” he said. “That is fair.”

Although UW-RF junior Liz Ineichen said she thinks the escalated fines are fair, she is uncertain if students will pay their citations more quickly.

“I don’t think it will do anything right away,” she said. “I think it will take a while for change. Some people will just do it anyway.”

While Ineichen said students may not pay their fines quickly, a glance into the 2006-2007 UW-RF Parking Services brochure will prove why prompt payment is a necessity.

According to the pamphlet, “Any person who violates any provision of UW-RF parking regulations may be issued a citation with a fine of up to $280.50.”

Though the maximum fine is near $300, initial fees increase after 14, 90 and 365 days.

As stated on the Department of Public Safety and Parking Web site, escalating fines are about twice the amount of the first citation.

While some fines will escalate according to these time periods, some parking violations, including a fraudulent permit or tow assessment fee, remain at their initial price until paid.

Weiss explained that this decision was made because those fines were already strong enough.

While fines are steep in comparison to previous years, Weiss is hoping all students will look at the reasons behind the change.

“We are not out to screw the students,” he said. “It is an issue of accountability. If you are parking in a spot that someone else has paid for, then, sorry.”

Weiss is not alone in his opinions on parking.

Jim Vierling, the Student Senate chair for the facilities and fees board, knows parking can be a sore subject with students, but the escalating fines are necessary.

“The parking office runs off its own budget,” he said.

With permit sales and ticket sales as their primary source of income, Vierling said for every eight students who pay a $25 fine, the parking office makes $200.

“Its good for them,” he said.

Although Vierling said the escalating fines will benefit the parking office, he is also aware of a last glimmer of hope for those who receive tickets. 

“Students can appeal fines,” he said.

If a student does choose to appeal a parking citation, the parking committee ruling is the last resort.

“Once a decision is reached, the fine is locked in,” Vierling said.

While Vierling is aware of the grumbling over parking, he said he also knows this is a common problem.

“The two biggest complaints on college campuses are about food and parking,” he said.

UW-RF senior Jordan Liethen’s opinion is no exception.

“They need to figure out something,” he said.

As far as the escalating fines, Liethen shares the same beliefs as Ineichen.

“I don’t think it is going to help,” he said.

For Weiss, the primary reason for the changes had nothing to do with using fines as a means to solve the parking problem.

“It’s less about raising fees and more about being fair,” he said. “It is totally unfair not to pay.”

For a complete list of the 2006-2007 UW-RF parking regulations, visit the parking office at 27 South Hall or go to the Web site at http://www.uwrf.edu/publicsafety/park/park_welcome.htm.