Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 26, 2012

City of Bluefield to renew efforts to collect past due police, court fines

BLUEFIELD — City officials are taking renewed steps to collect several years of past due police and court fines.

The Bluefield City voted 3-0 Tuesday to contract with Rossman Collection Services to collect unpaid police and court fees. Claude Crigger, chief financial officer for the city of Bluefield, said the company will only take a percentage of fees collected as payment for their services.  

“They do this across the state with a lot of other citizens. Many of the other cities I talked to said they have a proven record. There is no cost to the city unless money is collected. They charge 18 percent on any money collected unanimously.”

Crigger said some of the outstanding fees date back at least three years.

“The fines go back several years, at least three years or so,” Crigger said. “Truthfully, I don’t know how much in police fines are owed. We will know when we sit down with the company and start pulling those records. It is definitely enough to take a second look at.”

According to Crigger, it is important all outstanding fees be paid.

“We are going to make every effort to collect on these unpaid fees owed to the city,” Crigger said. “Everyone should pay their fees. These are revenues the city needs for services like our police.”

City Attorney Brian Cochran said municipal judges have worked to make sure recent police fines are paid, but outstanding fees from several years back still haven’t been collected.

“Our chief financial officer is asking the board to enter into a contract with this collection company in order to collect some of the outstanding fines owed to the city’s police and municipal court,” Cochran said. “This will be collecting any type of outstanding fines people owe. Our judges have done a great job ensuring recent fines are paid, but there are some outstanding fines to be collected.”

According to Cochran, the city is limited on how they can collect these older municipal fees.

“The legal system places certain limitations on how we can collect these outstanding fines,” Cochran said. “We can take away their driver’s license and other state licenses until the fines are paid. We have brought people back into court recently to see what is prohibiting them from paying their fines. The court keeps excellent records. Whenever someone who owes money comes into court or is brought back into court, we have a record if they owe any fines. We have been very successful on that front. However, there are some who skate by. This is another avenue we are exploring to collect those outstanding fines.”

Cochran said many of those who owe may not be aware they have an unpaid fine.

“A lot of these people may have had one incident and never had to come back to court,” Cochran said. “They may have moved out of the area or not be aware they owe an outstanding fine. Since our court has pretty good records, we know that if you owe money and what needs to be paid.”

Cochran said the city has successfully contracted with collection agencies in the past.

“This is the first time we have contracted with an outside agency for the collection of municipal court fines,” he said. “In the past, there have been issues with collection of fines. We do contract out to collect city fees, fire fees and some other fees. Those fee collections have been very successful.”

— Contact Kate Coil at

kcoil@bdtonline.com

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