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Handicapped Parking Fines Eyed

October 9, 2009
The Observer

The fines paid by able-bodied drivers who park in handicapped parking spaces could be used to help Sarnia pay for costly accessibility initiatives mandated by the Ontario government, a committee of council has suggested.

“It’s this type of innovative thinking that will help us marshall more resources,” said Coun. Bev MacDougall.

Sarnia and Lambton County are struggling to find revenue to meet the province’s new standards, MacDougall noted.

“If we could use fine revenues from infractions to improve accessibility than we’re keeping it in the same stream. It would, overall, help make our community more accessible.”
MacDougall said her eyes were opened to the plight of the disabled by an old college friend who was wheelchair-bound. At his request, she spent time trying to get around in the chair and found it challenging.
Yet, some people still resist making the necessary changes, she said.

“If you live a day from the seat of a wheelchair you’ll have a different view point,” she said.

Coun. Terry Burrell said he doesn’t think the idea will work, or engender goodwill toward accessibility.
“People are usually quite upset to get any kind of a parking fine,” he said. “I think it would work negatively against what we’re trying to do.”

Burrell said fines are normally used to fund transit initiatives, and that budget is sequestered from the general city budget. Removing that money from the revenue stream would mean money from somewhere else would have to replace it.

“There is going to have to be taxes raised generally for these other services coming down the pipe,” he said.

The city could not readily say how much revenue has been raised from parking infractions, but 203 tickets have been issued year-to-date. Many are challenged in court, which makes tracking the fees difficult.

The idea was first floated by the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. It’s something it plans to explore in 2010, said city transit manager and committee member Jim Stevens.

“There’s no direction on that at this point,” Stevens said. “It’s something they want to look into as a committee.”

Article ID# 2098076

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