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City Council approves $9 technology fee on citations

A new technology fee of $9 will be added to citations disposed in Municipal Court.

The citations that won’t have a technology fee include “those that are voided, declined for prosecution, dismissed without costs, not allowed under state law, or the defendant is acquitted,” according to Tuesday’s City Council agenda.

Court Clerk Candy Schwarz visited Tuesday’s Work Session before the City Council meeting to discuss the technology fee with City Manager Jim Crosby, Mayor John Alberts and council members. Schwarz proposed a technology fee of $25 on all allowable citations to cover the cost of the city’s e-ticketing system. The item was on Tuesday’s agenda for potential council approval at the meeting directly following the Work Session.

The exact wording of the agenda item read, “Consider approving Ordinance No. 1339, an ordinance which provides amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Yukon, Oklahoma by amending Section 34-52 to add a subsection imposing a Technology Fee in the amount of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) to be assessed on every citation disposed in Municipal Court.” The item also included the exceptions as previously stated.

A council member motioned to lower the technology fee from $25 to $9 to just cover the cost of the e-ticketing service without bringing much extra revenue. The motion was unanimously approved by council.

Compared to other near-by cities, Yukon now has one of the cheapest technology fees. Midwest City has a technology fee of $40, Bethany and Norman charge $25, Piedmont charges $15, and Edmond doesn’t have a technology fee because they don’t use e-ticketing, Schwarz reported.

Twenty thousand three hundred and fifty three citations have been given out from Jan. 1, 2012 to Sept. 19, 2016, Schwarz also reported. Not all of those citations could have a technology fee, but 18,875 could, hypothetically.

The e-ticketing system, Brazos Electronic Citation Software, was implemented in June 2012.

“The thing we didn’t know at the time was honestly how expensive Brazos was going to be,” Schwarz said. “We had talked with our previous city manager about implementing a possible technology fee then, and it just never came to pass. So that’s why it’s kind of on the board again.”

The police department has 18 handheld ticket writers. The department originally started with eight handhelds, then added six more then added four more. The handhelds have a life expectancy of about five to six years. There are also accessories and a yearly maintenance fee. The cost of Brazos averages about 21,500 per year. That number includes the hardware costs though, which is not an ongoing cost.

Alberts questioned if it would be cheaper to go back to hand-written tickets.

“The problem with hand-written tickets is if an officer wants to write you two tickets, they have to fill out two tickets,” Schwarz responded.

Alberts continued to try to better understand.

“My recollection was that this was supposed to be a cost-saver,” Alberts said.

Police Chief John Corn cut in to give his opinion on the e-tickets.

“It is a huge cost-saver,” Corn said. “Because of the initial outlay that was done, the interfaces that were built to transport the data to court, transport the data into our corrections and our records management. Multiple-ticket capability without writing two, or three, four pieces of paper. It’s saving that time.”

“Then why doesn’t that money get applied to this? Why don’t we move that money over?” Alberts responded.

There was a general response of “right” throughout the room, but no clear answer to Alberts’s question.

Schwarz explained some of the positives and negatives of Brazos.

The positives include:

– Issuing citations is faster and more efficient.

– Violations are uploaded the following morning when the handheld is synced. The information can be pulled by Schwarz and is also pushed into New World, which is the police department’s software. “All of that is done simultaneously,” Schwarz said.

– The driver’s license is scanned so there’s no human error of them trying to read handwriting, Schwarz said.

– An officer can take up to three photos with the handheld during a stop.

– It has a 20-second video capability.

– If more than one citation needs to be issued, the officer can add multiple violations with the press of a button.

– It’s easier to account for each citation as required by auditors. Each hand-written ticket must be kept and readily available in the case of an audit, but e-tickets are more-efficiently kept and manageable.

– Schwarz said she can easily amend or add charges, changes, wording of the defendant’s copy of the citation, and upload it within 24 hours.

– Warnings are clearly identified.

The negatives include:

– If a handheld isn’t synced, Schwarz doesn’t get the tickets.

– There are sometimes login problems.

– Handhelds can occasionally shut down in the middle of an officer issuing a citation.

The average age of people being issued citations is 32. The number of individuals 21 and older that have received a citation in the last five years is 5,135, about 25 percent of all citations. Alberts expressed concern during the Work Session that the $25 fee would be too expensive for the age of people receiving citations.

Schwarz said even a $9 technology would at least cover the cost of Brazos.

“I think that’ll at least cover the cost of it without it being so expensive for the citizen,” she said.

Schwarz said she suggested $9 if not the $25 because almost all of their citation amounts end in one, so it would even out the total.

Alberts, and other council members, said they would feel more comfortable with the lesser amount, as they proved during the City Council meeting that night.

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