LAFAYETTE — The City-Parish Council on Tuesday voted to get tougher on motorists who refuse to pay violations from the city’s traffic camera enforcement program.
The council voted 5-3 to approve a policy to file lawsuits to recover the unpaid fines if a collection agency has no success.
Before moving forward with the measure, the administration will likely propose that motorists be given a chance to pay past-due balances minus late fees before facing litigation, city-parish Director of Traffic and Transportation Tony Tramel said.
“We would actually offer up an amnesty period for persons who wish to come forward and pay their fines but waive the penalty portion,” Tramel said.
Since the automated traffic camera enforcement program began in 2007, the dollar amount of unpaid violations that are past due by four months or more has climbed to about $6.6 million, according to figures from the city-parish Traffic and Transportation Department.
Under the proposal approved Tuesday, delinquent fines of $125 or more can be referred to a collection agency after being past due for 120 days.
If the collection agency has not secured payment after another 120 days, then the city-parish attorney is directed to seek payment and late fees in court, according to the proposal.
Councilmen Kenneth Boudreaux, Kevin Naquin, Brandon Shelvin, Don Bertrand and Keith Patin voted in favor of the new measure for collecting fines.
Councilmen Jared Bellard, William Theriot and Andy Naquin voted against it. Those three council members have been vocal opponents of the traffic camera program.
Theriot questioned whether the amount of money ultimately collected through lawsuits will justify the legal expense of pursuing the cases in court.
“The concern I have is in dealing with the cost of this,” Theriot said. “… No way am I condoning anyone running red lights.”
Theriot and Andy Naquin also questioned whether city-parish government can file a lawsuit to collect a fine when notices of the traffic camera violations are sent through the normal mail, raising questions about whether they were ever received.
City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert said there is an assumption that a driver received notice of a violation if it was mailed to the address connected with the license plate image captured by the traffic camera.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to put five 10-year property tax renewals on the Nov. 6 ballot for salaries in the Lafayette Police and Fire departments, parish drainage work, the parish library system and the Lafayette Regional Airport.
The council approved these millages for the Nov. 6 ballot:
- A 3-mill city tax for Lafayette Police Department salaries that will generate about $3.7 million a year.
- A 2-mill city tax for Lafayette Fire Department salaries that will generate about $2.4 million a year.
- A 3.34-mill parishwide tax for drainage work that will generate about $5.5 million a year.
- A 1.71-mill parishwide tax for improving, operating and maintaining the Lafayette Regional Airport that will generate about $2.8 million a year.
- A 2-mill parishwide tax for the Lafayette Public Library system that will generate about $3.3 million a year.