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New parking enforcement tech coming

Downtown Prince George's long-awaited license plate recognition system should be in place by mid-October.

Downtown Prince George's long-awaited license plate recognition system should be in place by mid-October.

At Monday's council meeting, councillors approved two bylaw changes that will underpin the new program, increasing parking fines and changing rules around time limits.

Weekends will be free, but during the workweek the hourly rules will likely kick in from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. And there will be a three-hour "cumulative" clock regardless of where people park in the downtown, which will affect those who move their cars every couple hours as a way to park all day.

"This is by no means a money grab," said Fred Crittenden, with the city's bylaw services, but rather a way to change thinking around parking because with consistent enforcement, violations drop.

"This tool will allow us that consistency... without a whole bunch of extra staff."

Sept. 21 is the tentative start date when VenTek International, which has a $172,500 contract with the city, will have the equipment and technology ready. It will take about two weeks to train city staff, making the middle of October a realistic launch date for the new rules Crittenden said.

Coun. Jillian Merrick was the sole dissenting vote for the bylaw addressing fines because she thought the $50 fine on the first offence was prohibitive.

"People do make mistakes," said Merrick, adding the difference between $25 and $50 can mean a family's ability to pay for groceries that month. She said the first offence should offer the same fine that exists now - $25 - and then escalate thereafter.

But Coun. Brian Skakun said if a person has the ability to pay for car insurance and gas, they should be able to afford a $50 ticket.

"A lower fine might sound good but really it will have the opposite effect," Skakun added.

Council heard parking fines for the first six months of the year were just under $107,000 and the city typically collects about 66 per cent.

Staff said there’s potential to make more money with the 6th Ave lot, which has 27 stalls available. Last year revenue was $7,000 and the city has a 62 person wait list on the monthly stalls, which are currently taken up by hourly parking. Staff are suggesting the city get rid of that option.

"We can triple our revenue from renting those stalls," Crittenden said.

Mayor Lyn Hall said he was troubled by the "tremendous" amount of unpaid parking fines.

"That's troubling to me," said Hall, adding he thought the plan will help minimize those losses, before supporting both bylaws.

"This is the council to move it forward and get it rolling."

Skakun also asked staff about privacy rights, referring to a 2012 report by B.C.'s privacy commissioner warning the surveillance tool and collecting data for non-offenders violates their privacy rights. 

Crittenden said it's working on a privacy impact statement right now.

"It is our intention to dump photos of non-offences as soon as possible."