The old adage “crime doesn't pay” will be put to the test very soon as the city commission looks to raise the dollar amount of fines levied against lawbreakers in the near future.
The commission discussed the changes at length this week during the workshop held prior to its regular meeting.
Earlier this month the council discussed “window fines” by taking a comparitive look at the fines levied in neighboring cities and proposed increasing the cost of some fines. The proposal calls for the city’s “windown fines”, or the cost to pay a fine without going to municipal court, to increase for violations if the current city fine is below the average of neighboring cities. Other “window fines” will not increase.
“The proposed increase is only to allow the city to be on average with other cities within the area. This will only change the areas where the city is under the average and the increase will only be rounded up to the nearest $10.00. If the city was among the higher average on some fines, those costs will not increase,” said Steve Howerton, Ennis City Manager.
The increase in fines costs was a concern for commission member Byron Walker who questioned why the changes were being made. Mayor Russell Thomas assured Walker that the changes were only to keep the city current or inline with other cities for various offenses and that the issue could be easily solved by not breaking the law.
“This is not a sales tax that everyone will have to pay if they buy a gallon of milk, this will only affect some people. If you think the fine cost is too expensive and don't want to pay it, don't break the law, it's as simple as that,” Thomas said.
The commission will add the fine increase to an upcoming agenda for next month so the proposed increase will begin with the new fiscal year in October.
A property owner on Smith Street will get a bit of a reprieve as the city lowers the fines he faces for not mowing his yard. Due to an error in the property owners address from information received from the county, the city was not able to inform the man that he was being charged interest for having the property mowed by the city. Instead of having to pay nearly $1,500.00 to the city, a credit of $568.08 will be added to the bill to make up for interest charges that accrued as the city tried to contact him. The city mowed the property after several attempts to contact the owner to stay in compliance with the ordinance regarding long grass.
Other action issues included:
* The commission voted to accept a conditional approval from Lifepoint Hospitals Inc. to begin closing procedures on the lease of the old Ennis Regional Medical Center. Lifepoint will have to resolve several small issues before the lease can be discontinued.
* The commission voted to deny a request made by Atmos Energy Corp. for a rate increase.
* The commission approved two public use permits requested by the Downtown Merchants Association for the upcoming 2007 Autumn Days Fall Festival (to be held Oct. 19-20) and the 2007 Halloween Fest (October 31). The approval is based on the Merchants Association providing a copy of their certificate of liability to the city for the events.
* The commission voted to appoint former mayor Bill Lewis and Alan Clark to the Airport Commission.
The commission meets the first and third Monday of the month at City Hall, 115 W. Brown Street. The meeting workshop begins at 6 p.m. with the meeting starting at 7 p.m.
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