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Willmar City Council brings parking rules up to current practices

Vehicles are parked Wednesday in a city parking lot in Willmar. The City Council has revised its parking ordinance, increasing the fines people will face for some violations. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Some fees are increasing and some provisions are eliminated in changes that the Willmar City Council has made to the parking ordinance.

One change eliminates the authority of the fire marshal to issue tickets for vehicles parking too close to a fire hydrant in an established fire lane.

Willmar has not had a fire marshal for 10 years and the police department has been the agency enforcing that portion of the ordinance with or without the city having a fire marshal, says Police Chief David Wyffels.

But the fine for parking in an established fire lane goes up from $5 to $20.

"We raised it to $20 because it did not seem reasonable to be blocking fire trucks,'' Wyffels told the Tribune in an interview.

Those revisions were among changes recommended by Wyffels during a public hearing and ultimately approved by the council Monday night. Wyffels suggested the changes to reflect current parking enforcement practices.

The changes establish a reasonable amount of time for violators to pay parking tickets without incurring a late fee, and will bring the fine amounts in line with the same amounts that are allowed under the administrative citation ordinance.

Willmar enacted an administrative citation ordinance under a 2009 state law that lets cities issue administrative citations for certain traffic offenses. An administrative traffic citation will not be recorded on the violator's driving record, and is not a basis for revocation or suspension of the person's driver's license.

Wyffels says the administrative citation has become a burden because the Legislature placed too many restrictions on the citations and Wyffels said he will be recommending the council eliminate the ordinance.

The changes were approved in an amendment to the parking ordinance. Other changes are:

- The violation for parking in off-street city parking lots where or when official signs prohibit -- except 15-minute zones -- increases from $2 to $3.

- The amount of time allowed to pay the fine increases from 48 hours to 14 days from the time the ticket is issued. "We wanted to establish a reasonable amount of time to pay,'' Wyffels said.

- The misdemeanor penalty for failure to pay within 14 days is eliminated but the fine amount is doubled for failure to pay within 14 days.

- The requirement for issuance of a court summons or arrest warrant for failure to pay is eliminated, but police under state law are allowed to tow vehicles that have unpaid parking tickets. Wyffels said compliance by towing vehicles is better than going through the court process.

- The $50 penalty for failure to pay a ticket within five days for parking in violation of a declared snow emergency is eliminated. Violators will still pay the $5 ticket and $100 vehicle towing charge to release the vehicle from the impound lot. Impounded vehicles that are not removed after two days are subject to a $10 per day impound fee.

Wyffels said he wanted to bring the ordinance up to current practices. He said he'll be researching other ordinances commonly used by the Police Department that are either outdated or are no longer practical.

"Overall, I think we've cleaned it up a lot. The intent is to look at ordinances to see if they apply to current practices. If it is outdated, take it off the books.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150