In Lincoln more than $2 million owed in unpaid parking citations

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) A 10/11 NOW special report has discovered more than $2.5 million is owed to Lincoln Parking Services in unpaid parking citations since 2013.

More than $2.5 million in unpaid parking citations are owed to the city of Lincoln.

In documents obtained from parking services, branded as Park & Go, 62,722 parking citations totaling $2,541,420 were outstanding as of May 2019 in the city of Lincoln. More than 18,000 tickets written for parking violations in the year leading up to May had still not been paid.

The documents date back to May 2013 and showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid parking fines each year, particularly in downtown Lincoln. Unpaid parking citations at least three years or older totaled more than $1.3 million. The numbers do include vehicle owners ticketed for expired registration, who later had the $100 ticket waived after providing documentation that their tags were active.

Wayne Mixdorf, manager of parking services in Lincoln, admitted the number looked high but said compliance was good for a city the size of Lincoln.

"Eighty-five percent of the citations issued were paid, and that's pretty good in a university town environment," Mixdorf said.

Downtown parking enforcement came to the forefront during the first term of former mayor Chris Beutler.

The addition of Pinnacle Bank Arena and expansion of the Haymarket further required the remedy that parking enforcement could provide, particularly in areas that had become popular among visitors and residents alike, adding traffic and thus the need for parking.

By 2010, Lincoln Parking Services took command of ensuring compliance with Lincoln parking regulations.

The ramping up of parking enforcement coincides with data provided to 10/11 NOW by Park & Go showing information on unpaid parking tickets. In the year 2013 alone, 3,188 Lincoln parking citations remained outstanding as of May 2019, meaning violators had still not paid their ticket, or tickets.

For the following year, the number of unpaid citations more than doubled to 7,952, amounting to over $442,000 in unpaid citations to Lincoln Parking Services in those years combined.

In the Capital City, a parking meter ticket, which accounts for a majority of parking citations, costs ten dollars.

When a ticket isn't paid, Mixdorf said his department is limited in what it can do to obtain payment. He admitted that in essence, someone with a few citations could get away without ever paying.

"You have one citation that you've received in 2014 or whatever and you never paid it, [you're] probably not going to be on our radar," Mixdorf said.

In fact, a person must have at least three parking citations that have all went through the full adjudication process, and total at least $100, before the city could immobilize a vehicle.

"We don't use a collection agency," Mixdorf said. "We basically rely on your good intentions and our reminder notice."

But, paying a ticket is recommended said Mixdorf as a portion of a citation, about two dollars of a ten dollar parking ticket, goes to the school system. The remaining amount is labeled as an administrative fee covering some of the costs of parking services.

In both 2017 and 2018, documents showed more than 207,000 parking citations were issued in Lincoln, and Mixdorf said those still unpaid totaled about $33,000 not going to education.

"I think that if more people realized if that's where the fine amount went, I think more people would pay their fines," Mixdorf said.

As for potential changes to the process of collecting parking ticket revenue, Mixdorf said nothing is planned, though continued growth in Lincoln will eventually require changes in how parking services operates.

"Someday, at some point in the future, we will reach a point where the system that we use now is just isn't going to achieve the compliance that we'd like," Mixdorf said.