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How do those parking devices work?


Meter enforcement personnel enjoying new equipment



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August 04, 2010 | 09:11 AM
Move over pens and pads of brightly-colored parking ticket envelopes. Make way for the Autocite hand-held, all-in-one ticketing device.

Lake Geneva's Parking Meter Enforcement Department has been using the new technology for several weeks now. Supervisor Kerri Johnson couldn't be happier.

"The workers all love them and the accounting staff really loves them," Johnson said. "Before, everything was manual and now these synchronize automatically with the computer."

Last week, Johnson was eager to show off how the devices work compared to the old way of doing things.

Before the machines, parking meter personnel would have to write tickets by hand using a pad of envelopes with carbon paper on the top. While the ticket portion was placed on the windshield of the offending vehicle, the top part would be taken back to City Hall for data entry.

The city's old parking tickets were heavy paper envelopes, usually orange or yellow. Included on them were the make of the vehicle, license number, state, date, time and meter number. The parking enforcement employee also had to include his or her initials and mark the citation.

Johnson said one of the problems with the previous system was all the employees had different handwriting. She said if one of the entries was sloppy, the data entry at City Hall would be difficult and extra time would be needed to ensure the correct information was obtained.

That's not a problem anymore. The touch screen not only ensures readability, it also will not allow the user to forget to fill in one of the necessary fields. The hand-helds also connect to a computer at City Hall where it downloads the information from the tickets written that day. That means less time spent and fewer possible mistakes made during data entry from the old carbon copies to the computer.

But, the new devices haven't changed how the Meter Enforcement Department handles its job.

Walking the route south of Main Street with Johnson, she said some people think "we just stalk cars" waiting for the meter to expire and then give them a ticket.

Johnson said that's not the case, as she made her way up Center Street.

Across from the Post Office, Johnson had her chance to show off the hand-held machine. She observed a car in which the meter had expired. As she stared at the hand-held device, plugging in the information, she said it takes slightly longer to write a ticket now compared to the past. But, much of the information already is programmed in and less time spent during the data entry aspect makes up for the extra few seconds on the street.

"I think it takes a little more time, but the information is clear and more dependable," Johnson said. "Less time is spent on the other end at City Hall. At City Hall, it's a breeze for them."

She finished entering the data for the car, including the stall number, license plate and make of car. When she finished, she hit a button and the ticket printed out of the top of the machine on thin, bright white paper. She pulled it from the hand-held, walked to the windshield and carefully placed the ticket under the driver's side windshield wiper.

The machine holds information for 76 tickets and also includes a camera and audio capabilities. Johnson said the parking meter attendants can use the camera to further document and provide proof of a violation.

Then, she continued her route, heading west down Main Street, moving her eyes from parking meter to parking meter ensuring all had time remaining on them.

The only aspect personnel are concerned about is the weight of the devices. Although relatively small, the hand-helds weigh a few pounds. Johnson said the weight takes its toll during a full day walking the sidewalks.

But, there are possible issues for those who receive tickets. Because there no longer are envelopes, the fine boxes on many streets have been removed. Johnson said the four payment options are listed on the back of the new ticket. People can pay online, take the ticket to City Hall or put it in the drop boxes inside and outside City Hall

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the hand-held devices cost $4,950 per unit and the city purchased three of them. Two are used by parking enforcement at all times. The hand-held units also can be used if the city decides for higher tech pay stations and other parking meter solutions.

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