MUSCATINE — A change may be coming to how the city of Muscatine enforces unpaid speeding tickets issued by automated traffic enforcement cameras.
"In a nutshell, we're reversing our current ordinance is essentially what we're doing," City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said at Thursday night's City Council meeting.
Drivers who receive tickets from an ATE and don't pay will not see fee increases, but they will see a difference in the upfront cost at the end of a certain number of days. The proposed change to city ordinance 7-5-5 comes after three Iowa Supreme Court decisions in August. One, Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, found the city was not following municipal infraction orders. As a result, Mandsager and Muscatine Patrol Captain Steve Snider both said the decision will have a large impact on the amount of work for local court.
"Iowa Supreme Court forced our hand on this," Snider said.
Previously, if drivers who were issued ATE citations and didn't pay them within 30 days or request to go to court or an administrative review, those citations were sent to a collections department with a fee added on top. If the ticket went another 30 days without being paid, the issue went to court. Due to decisions made by the Iowa Supreme Court in August regarding ATEs, the city of Muscatine will have to send unpaid citations to court — rather than collections — as municipal infractions.
"Do we like it? No, because we think it's going to create more staff time," Mandsager said of the new proposed system.
This means that a person who pays an ATE citation within 30 days will pay the original fee amount, but after that 30 days where the citation goes to court, the city has to set the fee at nearly double the original ticket cost to account for administrative costs upfront. The fee "increase" isn't actually an increase, Mandsager said, rather it's approximately the same amount a person would pay at the end of the collections process.
Council also discussed the length of time to give drivers to pay tickets before they have to go to court. Councilman Kelcey Brackett wants to see a 45-day time period before citations are sent to court. He said it may be difficult for people with lower incomes to pay fines within 30 days.
"We tried to keep it as close as possible to the current structure following the current laws," Mandsager said and thought the city would actually see a decrease in revenue.
Snider said the city may see some change in future legislation, but for now, "this is kind of what we're stuck with."