Moose Jaw City Council will consider all three readings of the proposed Impounding Bylaw next meeting.
The bylaw, which was discussed at Monday night’s council meeting, would allow the city to tow vehicles that are registered to owners with outstanding parking fines. The vehicle doesn't necessarily have to be the vehicle that incurred the parking fines.
The bylaw would also allow the city to register liens on vehicles with outstanding parking tickets. It's a method that the city would not be using as a collection method. However, if the city decides it wants to take that route, a bylaw amendment would not be needed.
The city would also develop a communication campaign to let the public know of the Impounding Bylaw and warn those with unpaid fines that the city can start towing vehicles owned by that person. Director of Legislative and Enforcement Services Andrew Svenson said the intent isn’t to go out daily and tow vehicles but have “blitzes” in which residents are warned that during a certain period of time vehicles will be towed for unpaid fines.
“The intent isn’t to be out there towing vehicles. It’s to be used when fines aren’t paid, so the initial efforts will target those repeat offenders with greater outstanding fines,” Svenson said.
Coun. Crystal Froese voiced concerns that the proposed bylaw does not have a set amount in which impounding a vehicle would be triggered.
Svenson said there is no “magic number” of when a person’s vehicle would be towed, but that “people should know that’s an option for the city. If you have outstanding fines, pay them.”
In the end, Froese said she’s glad to see the proposed bylaw before city council as people have been taking advantage of the system for too long.
“I really do appreciate that this is before council. We have a little over $1 million in unpaid fines out there, and so people are taking advantage of the fact that they can continue to park without paying,” Froese said.
Coun. Doug Blanc asked if the city could tow a vehicle from a private property. Svenson said it is something they can discuss in-camera, but the city will use the authority it has to impound a vehicle. Svenson said, generally, vehicles will usually be parked on public property.
If passed, a copy of the bylaw will also be supplied to the Moose Jaw Police Service and the plans for towing will be shared with them.
During budget deliberation on Dec. 7, 2022, city council directed city administration to implement a towing strategy of outstanding parking fines.
At the time, it was noted that there are about 4,000 people owing the city more than $1 million in fines. It was also noted that about 83 per cent of parking tickets in Moose Jaw are paid without any collection efforts. For the outstanding amounts, the city had no mechanism to collect the overdue fines.
Under The Cities Act, the city has the power to seize vehicles to collect outstanding parking fines. The Act is retroactive to 2006, meaning that if the bylaw passed, the city could tow the vehicle of anyone in the province with outstanding parking fines dating back to Jan. 1, 2006.
If the bylaw passes, seizing a vehicle would be a four-step process:
- Confirm the offender's current place of address.
- Send the offenders a written notice that their vehicle may be towed if they do not pay.
- If they do not pay by a certain date, any vehicle registered to the offender will be located and the towing company will be alerted of the location. Police will also be that a certain vehicle will be towed.
- The offender will receive another letter that their vehicle has been seized and they can attend the impound lot to pay the fine and any associated towing fees.
According to the proposed bylaw, the vehicle will stay in the impound lot for at least 30 days before it is put up for sale for the city to recuperate lost revenue from the unpaid fines.
“In those situations, there’s authority then to use the value of the vehicle and so a sale of some kind would occur to collect what’s outstanding,” Svenson said.
City council will consider the three readings of the bylaw during its next regular meeting on Feb. 12.
You can read the proposed bylaw in its entirety here.