Superior’s Finance Committee is shopping for a better deal when it comes to processing parking tickets.
Since 2006, the city has relied on Professional Account Management of Milwaukee, a subsidiary of Duncan Solutions Inc., to collect fines, manage late-payment schedules and process unpaid tickets with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to suspend vehicle registrations of those who don’t pay the $15 fine.
At a cost of $2.85 per ticket issued with future increases tied to the consumer price index and with an early termination fee of $400 per month for the remainder of the five-year contract, the Committee decided Thursday, Nov. 14, to seek proposals to see what the market has to offer.
“The main reason that this contract came up is the e-ticket writer that parking enforcement uses is about to become unsupported,” Traffic Lt. Thor Trone said. “So to purchase a ticket writer, an electronic writer that prints, when we got prices for that last year, it was about $15,000.”
Professional Account Management included a new e-ticket writer and training in its contract renewal.
The city’s current contract with the company expires in February, but its e-ticket writer, used by the parking enforcement officer, becomes obsolete Jan. 1.
“The first of the year, I don’t believe that’s a drop-dead date,” Trone said. “I have to believe, and I have to confirm with the company, that the ticket writer will still work. We also have the ability to hand-write tickets. Parking enforcement can do that, but I would only recommend that for a limited period of time.”
Police Chief Nicholas Alexander estimated 80%-90% of parking tickets issued are written by the parking enforcement officer.
“Have we looked into this fully?” Councilor Keith Kern asked. “The first thing, the machine is $15,000 to print a ticket, and we’re paying this company $30,000 … are we just jumping into this because it’s comfortable and it’s what we’ve done?"
The company makes about $35,000 annually through its contract with the city — about 30% of all collected tickets, according to Ashley Puetz, assistant finance director.
Kern said he has concerns about the company’s reputation after googling the company online.
“I have had complaints about customer service dealing with them, Duncan,” Trone said. “But it’s nothing I can substantiate. They can’t tell me who they talked to.” He said “people get very angry over parking tickets” and the people answering the phone are basically telemarketers who don’t enjoy getting screamed at over the phone.
“I don’t think we’re against putting it out to proposals,” Alexander said. “One of our dilemmas is going to be when that becomes unsupported our ability to issue tickets will go away. I did put in a request a year and a half ago to replace the ticket writer. That was denied.”
Trone said the department retains the ability to write parking tickets by hand, something patrol officers typically do.
“Parking enforcement can do that, but I would only recommend that for a limited period of time,” Trone said.
Councilor Jack Sweeney, chairman of the Finance Committee said he had concerns with the proposed renewal and suggested negotiating to get rid of the early termination clause at a minimum. But he favored seeking proposals.
“I’ve never had a company … come to me and say, 'We’re lowering your price this year,’” Sweeney said. “It’s always a good practice to put it out to market."
Mayor Jim Paine said the committee may be obligated to seek proposals because of the cost of the contract.
“It seems like a good time to do it because you’re getting this new technology so you’re learning something new anyway,” Councilor Tylor Elm said.