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Motorists owe city close to $1M in parking fines

'For the last few months, we have been investigating this matter ... we are certainly concerned'

It is estimated that there are nearly $1 million in unpaid parking tickets floating around Moose Jaw allegedly dating to June 2011, which has prompted city hall to investigate and prepare a report for city council.

A source with knowledge about this issue approached the Moose Jaw Express recently and indicated there were roughly $925,000 in outstanding parking tickets, with some of the oldest supposedly stretching back a decade. Furthermore, the source also indicated that one motorist has allegedly racked up more than 225 tickets and $20,000 in parking penalties. 

The Express contacted city hall about these allegations and asked for clarification.

There are about $940,000 in outstanding parking tickets, based on what the Moose Jaw Police Service has told the City of Moose Jaw, but both parties are working to officially confirm this number, communications manager Craig Hemingway explained by email. 

“For the last few months, we have been investigating this matter internally and researching other jurisdictions to find potential solutions — we are certainly concerned about the large sum of outstanding parking fines,” he said. 

City administration expects to hold an initial discussion with city council about this topic in April. Furthermore, there are several investigatory, financial and legal considerations that city hall needs to address, Hemingway added. The municipality expects to bring forward a report with options this spring.

In a separate email, Deputy Police Chief Rick Johns explained that the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) is not involved with city hall operations since the City of Moose Jaw does not employ the law enforcement organization. Instead, the Board of Police Commissioners has oversight of the police service. 

“The Moose Jaw Police Service — along with other municipal police services in Saskatchewan — provide(s) enforcement of numerous provincial statutes and certain bylaws. Many of the violations result in fines,” Johns said. “However, it is not the function of police to collect unpaid fines, and I would suggest that it would be inappropriate for police to collect money for tickets police have issued.”

Whether a fine occurs from violating a provincial statute or a local bylaw, it is the entity’s responsibility to which the fine is owed to collect the money, he continued. 

The MJPS has a long-term contract with city hall to assist the municipality and its bylaw office with enforcement and administration of parking violations. This happens with the police service sub-contracting enforcement to the Commissionaires and providing office space for them while employing one civilian staffer to process the parking tickets. 

Johns said the Moose Jaw Police Service has never been a collection agent for city hall with outstanding or unpaid parking fines. He recalled that around 2011, the court system issued warrants for motorists with unpaid parking tickets who failed to appear before a judge. Police executed those warrants, which was a way to collect those fines. 

However, that practice ceased several years ago — before Johns joined the MJPS administration — and he was unsure if it was because of a legislative change or a decision the provincial courts made.

Motorists who acquired parking tickets could pay in-person at the police station’s front counter rather than mailing in the money, Johns said. However, this option moved to city hall since cashiers there accepted other municipal payments such as water bills and property taxes. Police Chief Rick Bourassa also helped city hall set up the online payment option instead of paying by mail or in person.

Johns confirmed that the MJPS provided city hall with an update of outstanding parking tickets on March 9.

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