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Prepare to pay more if you're a Mason City parking scofflaw

You might want to start paying a little closer attention to which side of the street you're parking on in Mason City, starting in January.

The City Council this week unanimously approved increasing the fine for most parking violations from $15 to $20. The find for parking in a spot marked for those with a disability will remain $200. 

Ticket on Taylor Avenue

A unpleasant surprise awaited this car's owner as it was parked on Taylor Avenue last January. The city will increase its parking fines starting in January 2022.

In addition, if the fine is not paid within 30 days, it increases by $10, instead of the $5 it was previously. The previous fine structure has been in effect since 2012. The new fines will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley told the council that his department is adding the ability to take credit/debit card payments, but that it comes with additional costs for the machines and for some of the cards that are used. The increase will also help defray the cost of mailing late notices to car owners, he said.

In a memo to City Administrator Aaron Burnett that was included in the City Council packet, Brinkley said parking tickets were the topic of an Iowa Police Chiefs Association online conversation. Mason City's new fines are in line with other communities like Ames, Fort Madison and Marshalltown.

Burnett noted that it was a "common misconception" that parking is a revenue generator for cities.

"Over the last 9-10 years, if I remember alright, it's always the No. 1 deficit," said Councilor John Lee.

Over the last five years, the city collected an average of $46,000 each year on parking fines, according to information the city's Finance Director Brent Hinson provided the Globe.

Burnett said he hoped the increase in fines would encourage fewer people to park illegally. The vast majority of the fines assessed are for alternate-side parking violations, he said.

"This is one thing we'd like to lose more money on," Burnett said.

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