THE CITY SCOOP: Parking tickets without fines

Each week, Herald reporter Brandi Jewett answers your questions about local government, laws and other local topics.

Q. I live on the north end, and I’ve noticed the city of Grand Forks giving out courtesy tickets on street cleaning nights. One car has gotten one three weeks in a row. I think it’s a waste of the city’s time. Why are they giving these out instead of real tickets?

A. It seems your neighbors might be disregarding a lesson the city is trying to teach them.

This year, the Grand Forks Public Works Department’s street maintenance staff decided to incorporate courtesy tickets as part of a street maintenance educational approach, according to the city’s public information center.

Previously, residents were given a $20 street maintenance ticket, which at times created hardship for residents. I can tell you my roommates collected parking tickets like baseball cards this year and last.

City staff says the courtesy ticketing program has allowed for a more positive experience with residents while ensuring reasonable street maintenance enforcement.

Based on a review this year, staff found there was not much difference in the number of courtesy or the fine-carrying tickets given out.

To try to address some problems areas with higher ticket counts, more street maintenance signage will be placed in those neighborhoods.

The public works department also will continue to work with the police department manage and change year-round parking enforcement activities as needed.

Q. I, like most of my friends, are delayed by the occasional train. I have the sense that because there is a switch and a car yard, there are at a minimum jobs and salaries generated by Burlington Northern Sante Fe. Certainly, there must be property tax on the area owned and operated by BNSF. Is there an identifiable economic contribution to Grand Forks attributable to the BNSF activity?

A. Part of your question can be answered with some simple number crunching, but the second part is a little trickier.

The value of railroad land is not assessed by local governments in North Dakota.

Railroad property value is based on miles of track and determining the value of that track is done by the Property Tax Division of the North Dakota Tax Department. The BNSF property is assessed at about $1.6 million in Grand Forks.

As for the amount of property tax accumulated from the property, it works out to be approximately $26,000 in general tax.

The amount includes county, school district, park district and city taxes and a 12-percent tax credit passed by the state Legislature this year. The city portion of that tax bill is approximately $7,800.

City staff members say the second part of the question is more challenging to answer.

Burlington Northern creates jobs and salaries for people in the Grand Forks region, and many of those people contribute to the economic well-being of the community by paying property tax, sales tax and living in Grand Forks.

Putting an actual number on that impact would be difficult to calculate, according to staff.

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Have questions? Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108 or (800) 477-6572 extension 1108, email bjewett@gfherald.com, follow her on Twitter at @GFCityBeat or see her blog at citystreetbeat.areavoices.com.

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