Municipal court responds to tough economic times

The McMinnville Municipal Court is offering an amnesty program for unpaid legal accounts that are more than three years old, which could affect Linfield students who owe money.
The program began Feb. 16 and will end May 14. It allows people to clear their accounts by paying half of the original amount owed on unpaid fines for citations, violations and misdemeanors. The amnesty program does not cover parking citations, DMV fees or restitution obligations.
“We were looking at old accounts that weren’t moving and tried to figure out a way to help people out,” City Attorney Candace Haines said. “One of the main reasons was to get people their licenses back and get them legally on the road.”
As of March 25, 127 people cleared 284 cases, Haines said. Because the court offers amnesty only on cases that are more than three years old, most current Linfield students who owe money to the court probably do not qualify for the program.
The court staff considers the program a success because of the large amount of people who cleared their accounts, Suzanda Sterrett, the municipal court clerk, said.
“It’s such a good deal, and I think people are really trying to take advantage of it,” Haines said. “It’s really important to have a good credit rating, and I think people are trying to improve their ratings and also get their licenses back.”
The program was created as a “positive and proactive” approach to help people during difficult economic times, according to the City of McMinnville Web site. It was also a way for the court to increase revenue.
“We noticed a decline in people being able to make their monthly payments,” Sterrett said. “We were trying to find a way to think outside of the box to help people and clear our books.”
Tough economic times made it difficult for people in many of the cases to keep up with payments, Sterrett said.
“People don’t have a lot of money, and they have to make choices,” Haines said. “There are other things that people spend their money on before they can pay us. We aren’t going to be the top priority.”
The court has considered offering similar programs in the future because of the program’s success, Haines said.
“Any amount of funds preserved has the potential to spur some form of economy,” sophomore Lucian Battaglia, who is from McMinnville, said. “But the court should be wary of being lax for too long.”
After the program ends in May, the cost of clearing an older account will return to the full amount due. The McMinnville Municipal Court is offering an amnesty program for unpaid legal accounts that are more than three years old, which could affect Linfield students who owe money.
The program began Feb. 16 and will end May 14. It allows people to clear their accounts by paying half of the original amount owed on unpaid fines for citations, violations and misdemeanors. The amnesty program does not cover parking citations, DMV fees or restitution obligations.
“We were looking at old accounts that weren’t moving and tried to figure out a way to help people out,” City Attorney Candace Haines said. “One of the main reasons was to get people their licenses back and get them legally on the road.”
As of March 25, 127 people cleared 284 cases, Haines said. Because the court offers amnesty only on cases that are more than three years old, most current Linfield students who owe money to the court probably do not qualify for the program.
The court staff considers the program a success because of the large amount of people who cleared their accounts, Suzanda Sterrett, the municipal court clerk, said.
“It’s such a good deal, and I think people are really trying to take advantage of it,” Haines said. “It’s really important to have a good credit rating, and I think people are trying to improve their ratings and also get their licenses back.”
The program was created as a “positive and proactive” approach to help people during difficult economic times, according to the City of McMinnville Web site. It was also a way for the court to increase revenue.
“We noticed a decline in people being able to make their monthly payments,” Sterrett said. “We were trying to find a way to think outside of the box to help people and clear our books.”
Tough economic times made it difficult for people in many of the cases to keep up with payments, Sterrett said.
“People don’t have a lot of money, and they have to make choices,” Haines said. “There are other things that people spend their money on before they can pay us. We aren’t going to be the top priority.”
The court has considered offering similar programs in the future because of the program’s success, Haines said.
“Any amount of funds preserved has the potential to spur some form of economy,” sophomore Lucian Battaglia, who is from McMinnville, said. “But the court should be wary of being lax for too long.”
After the program ends in May, the cost of clearing an older account will return to the full amount due.

Shawn Fisher
News reporter Shawn Fisher can be reached at linfieldreviewnews@gmail.com

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