Oneonta Police Officer Eric Berger writes a parking ticket for a car illegally parked on Irving Place in Oneonta on Wednesday.

ONEONTA _ The city issues an average of 8,500 parking tickets a year, but some people aren't paying.

Between Jan. 1, 2006, and last week, motorists accumulated $54,145 in overdue parking fines. The top 15 offenders collectively had 335 outstanding tickets worth $5,810.

After three parking tickets within 18 months, motorists are "scofflawed," which means they will not be able to renew the registration on their vehicle without paying the fines, said city Chamberlain David Martindale.

If someone gets 25 tickets within 18 months, there is an "immediate" suspension of the registration for the vehicle that was the subject of the ticket, Martindale said.

"Some of the people on this list are actively suspended," he said.

Unpaid parking tickets are nothing new in Oneonta, and in years past, the overdue amount was much greater than it is today.

In 1981, the city reported an estimated $200,000 in unpaid parking tickets _ adjusted for inflation, that is about $475,000.

A state audit in 1995 recommended the city clamp down on uncollected fines.

Over the years, the city changed its tactics in terms of parking enforcement, Martindale said, and as new technology became available, the collection process has improved.

The city has an 83.4 percent collection rate on parking tickets, with $272,675 in parking fines paid during the 30-month period ending June 20.

"I think this, in my opinion, is very good," Martindale said.

At times, this rate was as low as 65 percent.

In 1999, the city began using an outside contractor, Complus Inc., for ticket collection. The contractor was provided with the ticket information by the city, and the company handles the mailing of notices to motorists as well as scofflaw notification to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In return, the company collects a 20 percent commission on each ticket for New York registrations and 25 percent for out-of-state registrations.

In 2003, the city enhanced its ticket-collecting efforts by leasing five handheld ticket writers for $1,025 a month.

The ticket writers eliminate the need for the city to manually send ticket information to Complus. That step is now done automatically through the equipment. Complus sends out an overdue fine notice each month to the person who is listed as the registrant for the vehicle.

A survey of the 21,458 tickets issued between Jan. 1, 2006, and June 20, 2008, shows the Municipal Parking Garage, the Westcott parking lot, the Dietz Street parking lot, Main Street, Elm Street and Center Street as the locations within the city where the most tickets are being written.

Fines range between $5 for meter violations to $80 for illegally parking in a handicapped spot. Most fines are $10.

After 15 days of non-payment, the fine increases by 50 percent. After 30 days, the fine doubles.

Parking enforcement in terms of tickets issued has waxed and waned over the years.

The city issued 7,800 tickets in 1982 and 7,300 in 1984, according to Daily Star records.

But by the late 1990s, the city was down to about 3,670 parking tickets per year.

Mayor John Nader said enforcement of the city's parking regulations increased beginning in 2006.

"Really, that was driven by the downtown business community," Nader said.

Nader said there was concern over parking availability for shoppers and those who work downtown.

After a period of adjustment, there hasn't been too much hostility to greater enforcement, he said. "It's really subsided in terms of ticket complaints."

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