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New parking policy will boot vehicle after first unpaid ticket

Harsh. That’s what some residents said after hearing the change to Durango’s parking policy. Currently, the city allows vehicles to be booted after three parking tickets that are more than 20 days old, but that will change to one unpaid ticket in August. City officials have said the change is to provide better customer service, but some residents said it will make them think twice before driving downtown.

Downtown business owner Tina Valles said she’s worried about clients getting booted because of a forgotten ticket. She said some appointments run late, and it’s already harder for her clients at Pure Skin Salon to afford parking downtown because of the price increases in January.

“If they were to miss just one parking ticket – I think that’s just way too harsh,” she said. “I’m really, really surprised to hear that.”

Meter prices went from 60 cents on Main Avenue to $1 in January. Side-street meters that used to have varied rates now are 75 cents an hour. Fines for parking violations went from $9 to $12.

The fine increases to $24 on the eighth day and $48 after 30 days. The city will release an impounded car after all citations and a $50 boot fee are paid.

Kay McGuire said she freaks out when she parks downtown for work or for relaxation. McGuire, who looks like she’s about to deliver a baby any minute, was having a massage one day when her appointment ran a little late, and her meter expired. Sitting in Buckley Park, the Durango resident said she tries hard to avoid getting parking tickets and sets a timer on her phone.

“I panic,” she said. “If you’re in the middle of something, it’s hard sometimes – I’m pregnant – to run across town to get to the car.”

The Parking Department will send more timely notices to people with unpaid parking tickets, said Roy Petersen in a May 27 City Council study session. A notice will go out eight days after the ticket’s issuance if it still is unpaid. That would give vehicle owners a more timely notice that they owe a fine, Petersen said. The department also will notify owners on the 28th day after a ticket’s issuance that their car is going on the boot list. Vehicles will go on the boot list on the 34th day.

“There’s probably some locals that won’t necessarily appreciate that, but those folks that get that notice with three citations and haven’t been aware that their vehicle has been getting parking tickets – we get some phone calls, and I don’t blame them,” Petersen said in the May hearing.

La Plata County resident Shannon Bennett was sitting in a car on Main Avenue while he gave his opinion about the new policy. He said he gets a ticket about once every four months but pays them promptly.

“I don’t agree with that,” he said about the new booting policy. “There ought to be a little bit of leniency.”

Tim Wheeler, owner of Durango Coffee Co. on Main Avenue, said there is a relationship between sales tax that goes into the general fund and the money paid into the meters, parking tickets and other transportation-related spending that goes in the parking division’s enterprise fund, which has to raise the money it uses for transportation operations.

“I would encourage at least a second chance for people,” Wheeler said. ”It seems like a little grace would be nice.”

While residents complain about Durango’s harsh parking policies, they may feel better compared with other cities in Colorado – or not.

Telluride and Grand Junction allow drivers to rack up three unpaid tickets before their vehicle is booted. Aspen sends a warning after five unpaid parking tickets but tows cars rather than boots them.

In Pueblo, tickets must be paid within 10 days, or the municipal court can issue an arrest warrant, boot the car and publish the vehicle owner’s name on the government access channel and with the local media. But the warrant and the boot are used only if there are 10 unpaid tickets or more, according to the municipal court.

All the other cities the Herald compared with Durango had higher ticket fines.

“On the fines, we tend to give out a lot of parking tickets because it’s the way to get people off the side of the road that aren’t supposed to be there during the winter,” said Telluride Finance Director Lynne Beck.

Telluride parking fines are $40, but are cut in half to $20 if the offender pays before their municipal court date. Grand Junction charges $15, Aspen $30. Pueblo charges $25, plus a $14 surcharge.

As in Durango, there are financial penalties, including late fees, for not paying your fines. Telluride has a $30 boot fee, Grand Junction adds a $50 warrant fee, and its boot fee is $50. Aspen charges a $135 tow fee. Pueblo has a $25 boot fee.

But for cheap parking, the best deals are in Grand Junction and Telluride: 50 cents an hour on the meters. Grand Junction has an even better deal for long-term parkers: 10 cents an hour or 90 cents a day up to 10 hours.

Aspen had the most expensive parking. The city’s meters charge $2 for an hour, $5 for two hours. Staying at a meter for four hours costs $14. That’s harsh.


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