Wednesday, March 12, 2008

City Weighs $25 Administrative Ticket Plan

Lancaster City Council is considering implementing an "administrative ticketing system" in order to deal with summary property violations.

Such offenses as accumulations of trash on one's lawn, furniture on one's front porch, littering, and graffiti are covered under the bill, being called Administration Bill No. 2-2008.

The first step in the process involves the issuance of a $25 violation ticket. If the fine is not paid or a hearing is not requested within 15 days, the amount increases to $30. Failure to pay within 30 days results in the city's issuing a citation, which includes a charge of at least $50 plus penalties almost always well in excess of $100.

The city may also direct the property owner to abate the violation or be charged for the cost of the city's cleaning up the problem itself.

City officials insist that the ticketing procedure is a way of educating the public and providing extra leeway in the punitive process, not a way for the city to make money.

"We're probably going to lose money off of this, frankly," Mayor Rick Gray admitted at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

"What it does is it provides a simpler step... rather than going to a district justice,you give people one step up from a friendly reminder and that's a $25 ticket," he explained.

A few local landlords raised concerns that they would be the ones ticketed and cited rather than the tenants.

Mayor Gray and Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city's Director of Public Works, both insisted that the city can determine who the owner of a property is but not necessarily its tentants.

"It is our intent to work with property owners... if there are any problem tenants," Gray said.

A landlord can also write provisions into their leases with tenants regarding who would pay for tickets and citations, suggested Council President Louise Williams.

Gray also explained that there is a an appeals process through which one can argue that a given ticket is unfair in a particular circumstance.

He welcomed public feedback and encouraged anyone concerned about the procedure to contact his office.

City Council is expected to vote on the proposal at its next meeting on March 25.