A dreary Sunday afternoon was made brighter for some Madison residents as city officials worked to mitigate unpaid citations.
During the “Unpaid Ticket Resolution Day,” people with past-due fees for parking, traffic and municipal ordinance violations received help to make the payments more manageable through actions such as a payment plan, reduced fines or community service.
Scores of people turned out for the event scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and last two hours and sponsored by the Madison Police Department.
By 5 p.m., though, officials locked the door to anyone new trying to register, after the maximum 180 slots were quickly filled.
Erika Martinson said she had seven offenses totaling more than $1,000.
After meeting with city officials, she said three of the charges were dismissed, leaving her with about $350 to be paid by working community service hours.
Martinson, who showed up an hour early to get in line, said she was happy and relieved by the resolution.
Abram Herrero, who moved to Madison from Chicago about a year and a half ago, said he recently found out he is on a towing list due to the number of citations he has.
“If I could get a couple tickets removed and get on a payment plan, that’d make my week,” Herrero said.
Chelsea Knight said her father’s van was towed after she parked it in a spot she didn’t know was illegal. She said she was hoping to reduce the amount she owed for the parking ticket to help her afford to get the vehicle released. She also hoped the city would host another resolution day.
“If people choose community service, that’ll help us get our community back on track, because we definitely need to work on it,” she said.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said four employees from the city attorney’s office, a municipal judge, two workers with Court Services and several police officers were participating in the process, while Koval himself called out the names of the next person in line.
In a blog post Tuesday, Koval wrote that after attending a neighborhood forum last year, he learned about difficult decisions people in poverty face when weighing whether to pay off citations or use their money for necessities.
Koval, who was raised Catholic, wrote in the blog that he was inspired to organize the event in part by Pope Francis’ call for 2016 to be a year of mercy.
Translators were available for those who needed them, and police officers were not checking for potential warrants to make the process more inclusive.
The effort resonated with city residents, drawing in so many that extra chairs had to be brought to the Head Start Room in Villager Mall, 2206 South Park St., as dozens sat on the floor waiting.
Koval said he was pleased by the turnout.
“This might mean we’ll have to do another one, and very soon,” he said.