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Morris City Council doubles most parking ticket fines

MORRIS, Minn. - The Morris City Council voted to double most of the parking fines in the city of Morris and at the University of Minnesota, Morris at their meeting on Tuesday.

The proposal came at the recommendation of City Manager Blaine Hill, who told the council that the fee structure hadn't been changed for awhile and the current fee doesn't cover the cost of writing and administering to the ticket.

"The fees themselves are not really a deterrent to anybody parking out there," said Hill.

Under the new parking fee structure, a snow emergency parking ticket will be $30, up from $15, and all other parking tickets in the city will be $20, up from $10.

Tickets on the UMM campus and the Regional Fitness Center all jumped from $10 to $20, except for displaying a forged/altered parking permit, which went from $20 to $40. The only ticket price that will stay the same is parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit, which will continue to set drivers back $200.

Council Member Bill Storck said he was in favor of increasing the snow emergency parking ticket fine even higher to help prevent damage to the roads by melting snow turning into standing water and to compensate for police time writing tickets.

"A lot of people complain when they do what they're supposed to do and they see some lazy guy that doesn't move his car," said Storck. "And they say, 'What's the problem with the city council? Why don't they put some teeth in it?'"

Morris Police Chief Jim Beauregard said that since the city adopted a policy to tow and ticket cars left on the street during a snow emergency rather than just ticketing the vehicles, the problem has dropped considerably. Under the new system, drivers receive a ticket and need to pay the cost of towing the car, about $125.

"We're down to literally, even on the first offenses, down to five or 10 vehicles," said Beauregard. "If we were going back to the old system of just writing tickets and not towing, then Bill's argument is valid and that [ticket] should be $50 to $75."

Council member Jeff Miller said there is a good notification system in place for snow emergencies and since the change in policy car parked during snow emergencies has become mostly a non-issue in the city.

Mayor Sheldon Giese and council members Miller and Storck voted in favor of the measure, which did not include an additional increase to the snow emergency ticket fee. Council members Twig Webster and Matt Carrington were absent from Tuesday's meeting.

Other business

• The council approved a new five-year agreement with West Central S.W.A.T. which includes annual dues of $770.

• The council formally accepted a $24,988 Department of Natural Resources Minnesota Community Forest Bonding Grant award. The grant money will be use to remove ash trees from Morris parks and replace them with new varieties of trees in order to establish new forest before Emerald Ash Bore kills local ash trees.

City Inspecting Engineer Jay Fier and the Tree Board put together the grant applications and will oversee implementing the project.