The city of Springfield Massachusetts began using new technology today in a bid to collect more than $11 million owed it by scofflaws. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Devices mounted on traffic enforcement vehicles scan license plates on cars and trucks parked on Springfield streets and instantly alert the enforcement officials if there are outstanding parking tickets or unpaid excise tax bills. Springfield City Treasurer-Collector Stephen Lonergan says the vehicle will be booted or towed and impounded until the owner pays up.
The city, working with the Springfield Parking Authority, launched the high-tech crackdown on scofflaws Monday after receiving special permission for the program earlier this year from the Massachusett Legislature.
Lonergan says the city is owed approximately $5.6 million in delinquent excise taxes and $5.7 million in parking citations.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles can block renewals of registrations and drivers licenses for un-paid excises taxes. But, because such renewals don’t occur annually, scofflaws could go for years without facing consequences.
A bill, known as a home rule petition, giving Springfield permission to seize vehicles for un-paid excise taxes was given final approval in the Massachusetts Legislature in March. State Representative Sean Curran of Springfield sponsored the bill
Springfield City Councilor Timothy Rooke ,was the driving force behind the plan. He first proposed , at least four years ago, to use license plate readers to instantly identify the location of vehicles with outstanding tickets and taxes.
Rooke says even if the city can collect just half the more than $11 million its owed, it will provide a big lift at a time when other revenue sources are lagging.
The city’s $535 million budget for the fiscal year that started July 1st, eliminated more than 100 city jobs, closed three library branches, idled a fire department ladder truck, and will curtail repairs and maintenance to city property, including parks.