By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Although it is not surprising for anyone to get caught in the lens of Morinville’s photo radar camera, some area residents were surprised to find they’d been caught and convicted without ever having received the initial speeding ticket, a situation that has resulted in a late fee being applied to that earlier infraction.
One such resident is Lisa Fuhr, who received a notice of conviction on Oct. 20 for a ticket she’d allegedly been sent for a speeding offence said to have occurred July 21. Fuhr said the initial ticket was never received and that after several phone calls, including one to Integrated Traffic Services (ITS), Morinville’s photo radar contractor, she learned she would have to apply to the court to have the additional late fee dropped.
“Why are we having to take time out of our work days?” Fuhr asked, noting there was obviously a flaw in the Town of Morinville’s ticket delivery service and that she’d talked to others in similar circumstances to herself. “I have no idea how many tickets it could be.”
The way Morinville’s photo radar system works is ITS records the information from the speeding violation, that information is then turned over to the Town of Morinville, who prints the tickets and delivers them to Canada Post. Once the tickets are sent in the mail, it becomes a matter for the provincial courts.
But for Fuhr the situation has left a bad taste in her mouth, one she says she has to pay for in time or money. “If there’s a whole batch of tickets that went missing, how is that my problem? It’s not my service. I didn’t hire them. I’m wondering where it is that it’s my problem.”
The area resident said she is left with the feeling the photo radar system is not a fair system if tickets cannot be delivered in a timely manner or at all. Also unfair to Fuhr is the length of time she must wait to have her day in court to fight the additional charge. “When I actually get to court, it could be almost a year,” Fuhr said of the time from the initial alleged violation to when she will have the chance to speak to the matter in court. “With court dates, it could be a good nine months.”
Town looking to remedy against future incidents
Debbie Oyarzun, Morinville’s Interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), said it is unfortunate some residents have found themselves in Fuhr’s situation. Oyarzun said there have been 40 complaints regarding the tickets to ITS. Of that number, three have brought their complaint to the Town directly.
“We identified a batch of 53 tickets that were printed. They were processed and, as far as we know, were dispatched and distributed,” Oyarzun said. “Once they get printed we hadn’t been tracking them beyond that because that’s not what the contractor does.”
Although there was no means in place to track tickets at the time a batch is alleged to have gone missing, Oyarzun said such a process is now in place because of it. “We’ve added some additional tracking mechanisms on the ITS system so that now when the tickets are printed, we also print out a tracking list which we take with us to the postal service,” Oyarzun explained, noting the list has numbers on the envelope that align with the ticket inside. “We get them [the postal service] to sign off that they’re received [the batch] and that’s the number of tickets that they’ve received. It’s just that reconciliation or that cross check to make sure.”
Oryuzan said with the new system in place, the Town of Morinville will have certainty the post office has been given all the tickets. But even in the batch Fuhr’s missing ticket seems to have been a part of, some tickets got through. “Of the 53, there is a spattering of them in that 53 that paid it before the late fee, meaning that some of that 53 did get dispatched,” THE cao said, noting she is not trying to point fingers at the postal system. “We’ve had a handful of complaints with respect to the late fee.”
Late fee can be waived
Oyarzun said in talking to the prosecutor in St. Albert it was determined those who received convictions without the original ticket could apply for a set aside, a process whereby a court date is set to give the ticket holder an opportunity to say they did not get the ticket. Oyarzun said because the Town of Morinville has reported the incident to the courts, it is entirely likely the late fee would be waved and the matter would revert back to the original speeding ticket.
But while it is probable the roughly $20 late fee would be waved, those in Fuhr’s predicament are left with the prospect of taking time off work to reduce the penalty. Additionally, anyone who has to renew their plate sticker prior to their court date to fight the late fee would have to pay the original ticket and late fee to be able to get their plate sticker.
It is believed approximately eight of the 53 tickets in question were issued to Morinville residents.