By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
As of April 14, Woodstock will be getting the boot – the Denver boot.
“We don’t need a lot of them, maybe three or four,” said Woodstock Town Manager Phil Swanson this week, as the countdown to the arrival of the “immobilization devices” continued.
This ordinance change “authorizes the Woodstock Police Dept. to attach an immobilization device (such as a ‘Denver Boot’ so called) to a motor vehicle that has four or more outstanding parking tickets following fifteen day notice by certified mail.”
Woodstock Police Chief Robbie Blish explained, “The problem is that at one point we had $12,000 in outstanding parking fines and some of the scofflaws were up in the hundreds of dollars apiece.”
That total dropped by not-quite half following an amnesty program, but the number has since begun to creep up again, and Swanson said that with a rarely used provision allowing towing of offenders’ cars already on the books, the Village Trustees felt they were finally out of options.
“There’s still a lot of people with a lot of money owed to the Village,” Swanson said, adding, “This is kinder than towing. The tow truck is now coming from either Hartland or White River Junction and so it would be an added burden and added expense for a scofflaw to be towed.”
Chief Blish said that although the Village had some success with a pair of amnesty efforts over the years that offered individuals up to half off their balances, “You can’t continue to offer amnesty to people because then people just wait until the next amnesty.”
Swanson agreed, saying “We rode that train twice and we didn’t get enough participation so now we are taking this option.”
That said, the appearance of a Denver boot on someone’s tire should not come as a shock to them.
To get one, a driver is almost certainly going to be a local resident who has frequented downtown metered parking spaces in the Village and paid so casually as to have accumulated at least four outstanding tickets.
“The person is going to have a certified letter arriving in their mailbox saying they have 15 days to straighten this out before they are eligible to be booted,” Swanson explained.
Even then the boots are only going to be applied if and when the Village finds the offending car parked back in one of their metered spaces.
“If the car is someone on private property it is absolutely not going to get booted,” Chief Blish noted, saying “If their vehicle is found in a metered spot and we can boot the vehicle we are obviously not going to hold the car hostage unless they cough up the money.”
“This is more along the line of us saying: You either need to pay the outstanding fines or make some kind of payment arrangement with us and we will release the boot.”
“We want to send the message to people who have outstanding tickets that this could happen to you – so come and see us first,” Blish said, “Hopefully this will bring some people in before we have to boot them. We don’t want to boot anybody. We just wish people would comply, that’s all.”