The first reading of the ordinance, which amends Title I, General Provisions, Chapter 10, General Provisions, Section 10.99, General Penalty of the Code of Metropolis, was held during Monday’s Metropolis City Council meeting, from which Alderman Richard Corzine was absent.
For several months, the city has been doing a similar action with its parking tickets where violators are allowed to pay their fines at the City Clerk’s office in lieu of going to court. The success of that program prompted Metropolis Police Chief Harry Masse to suggest it be done for other common ordinance violations.
In an Ordinance Committee meeting Feb. 19, city attorney Rick Abell informed committee members David Daugherty, Charles Barfield, David McManus and Bill Midnight and alderman Bill Carrell that in writing the new ordinance, he was looking at the most common fine-only offenses: general provisions and traffic schedule under the traffic code; animal restraint, nuisance animals and owner’s duties under the animals chapter of the general regulations code; weed, garbage and nuisance under the nuisance chapter of the general regulations code; and zoning under land usage.
If paid within 14 days, the fine would be $25 to $50 depending on the offense. If the fine is paid in longer than 14 days but less than 31 days, the fines range from $35 to $75.
“These dollar amounts are typically less than what we would seek if we were in court,” Abell said, noting court fines start from $75 to $150. “In court they’d pay the fine, which is generally this amount or more, and they’d pay court costs as well. This is a break from normal routine. The animal neglect fine is a little higher than other offenses because that’s a little more serious violation. Even so, this would give your various officers, whether it be your police officers, animal control officer or code enforcement officer, a little leeway and flexibility to work with somebody.”
Abell explained that it can sometimes take four or more court visits before the city receives money for a fine-only ordinance violation.
“I don’t know how many hours are spent trying to collect these,” he said. “On average, we’ll go at least twice and the judge gives them more time to pay. The third time, they’ll fail to show up and we have to do paperwork on that; which is a contempt citation. Then Harry and his guys or a deputy sheriff has to serve them. Then if they don’t show up, we have to prepare, obtain from the court and serve a warrant for their arrest. At that point, we usually collect their money because they’re going to post bond rather than remain in jail for something like this. But we expect to collect faster and much easier with this new option.”
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