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Report Says Broken Courthouse Meters Costing County

Nassau Comptroller recommends transferring maintenance of Mineola court complex meters to department of public works.

Nassau County is losing out on potentially over $320,000 per year in parking meter fees and fines at the Nassau County court complex over a broken parking meter system according to a report issued by the county comptroller’s office.

There were a total of 163 parking meters at the court complex in Mineola, which encompasses both the county and Supreme court houses. From 2009-11, due to a lack of repairs, the vast majority of the meters became broken and were placed out of service with a highly-visible red cover placed over the meter head.

The responsibility of maintaining the parking meters on the site fell under the jurisdiction of the county department of public works until 2009 when the police department assumed all duties.

“Since this transfer, maintenance, collection and enforcement have been sporadic resulting in significant lost revenue,” the report states.

According to the Nov. 12, 2012 report, “parking meter revenue could approach $200,000 annually, yet it has dropped to $28,000.”

Another $150,000 in revenue could potentially have been realized with fines for parking at expired meters.

The $18,000 annual operating budget for maintaining the meter heads under the department of public works was eliminated in 2008.

In May 2011, 143 meter heads were replaced with the remaining 20 removed as part of a pilot program for Muni-Meter kiosks, similar to those in use in New York City.

However, the meters again fell into disrepair by June 2012 as public safety officials stated they only had keys to access the coin boxes and not to open the meters themselves to affect repairs, which had formally been done by the department of public works or a contractor.

An audit also found that some meters were only being emptied every 5 months as opposed to once per week as recommended so the machine would not become jammed. Also, only one individual responsible for emptying the money containers, transporting the funds, counting, preparing the deposit and going to the bank and that after sorting, the coins are left in an unsecured area, sometimes for several months.

Nassau County Police stated that “the new Muni-Meters utilize lock-boxes with printed reports detailing collections in each machine, preventing loss upon meter collections” and that “two employees open and count proceeds in the lock box and verify and reconcile to the printed reports.”

Public Security is reportedly training additional individuals in lock-box processing to improve timely deposits of collections.

Enforcement was also found to be lax in the new muni-meters, with at least 7 vehicles in the 20-spot pilot area with invalid slips on a given day and the report stated that new signage notifying the public to pay at the meters had not yet been installed.

The police department responded to the audit by stating that the revenue collections “more than doubled” after the pilot program was implemented and agreed that the new muni-meters should be monitored more frequently. The department also took note that the audit of the Muni-Meter pilot “occurred only once, on one day and on a limited number of meters. Additionally, there is no indication that auditors continued to observe the meters to verify the vehicles were not ticketed or verified that officers were not engaged in enforcement activities, including ticket writing, elsewhere in the county.”

The report recommended transferring the functions of meter fee collection back to the department of public works traffic safety division.

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