Duluth puts off decision on red-light collections

DULUTH - Duluth city officials have postponed indefinitely a decision regarding procedures for collecting unpaid red-light camera fines pending the outcome of a legal opinion by the state on overcharges for the tickets.

Mayor Shirley Fanning-Lasseter announced the postponement at Monday's city council meeting. The city had been looking at hiring a debt collection agency to follow up on no-shows for court dates in the case of red-light camera fines. Chief Municipal Judge Charles Barrett said since the fines were civil in nature, not criminal, state legislation didn't allow for any penalties on the fines. That left the city liable for any collection charges.

But now that the attorney general's office has issued an opinion that anything over $70 is an overcharge, the city is waiting for clarification on the issue before going any further. Duluth, as with some other municipalities, had been adding state mandated fees to the $70 charge. Duluth added $24.50, bringing the total fine collected up to $94.50.

City Clerk Teresa Lynn said that the city began collecting only the $70 from Tuesday this week, but she was not sure how any potential refunds of previous overcharges would be handled.

In other business:

The city decided to continue offering discounted rates to residents of Duluth for Parks and Recreation through online registration. The discount status will be checked manually through address verification following registration. The council approved an additional $30,000 for a slate roof instead of shingles on the new public safety building. The slate is not genuine slate, but a man-made lookalike that is more durable said City Administrator Phil McLemore. The city authorized the municipal election to be held at Duluth City Hall Nov. 8, to elect three members of the council.