When the Federal Way City Council recently installed traffic light cameras, it decided rather to outsource than pay local staff to administer its photo enforcement program (PEP). It thus created a horribly encumbered, faceless, and no doubt, expensive off-site bureaucracy. Infraction notices are mailed from Tempe, Ariz., where you also call to inquire or follow up. However, payments are mailed to Cincinnati, Ohio, or sent online for a “convenience” fee. You have a month to pay before PEP adds a default penalty to the fine. Court hearing requests are also allowed, and must be mailed to Cincinnati.
As time passes, your good faith and timely “1-800 numbers” calls to Arizona about a court hearing date are recorded, and PEP can assure you that your ticket will not go into default, but if Federal Way’s PEP contractor fails to respond timely in writing, ironically, it will add the penalty fee.
At that point, do not go to the Federal Way court payment/information window to complain about the PEP administrator’s unfair late response if you have no confirmation of mailing. Feeling the victim of this bureaucratic incompetence, you may then feel forced to change your mind to have a court hearing and stop the clock simply by paying the PEP fine plus penalty to Cincinnati. The Federal Way window clerk cannot accept your money.
As an observant, careful, senior citizen driver, I was surprised to receive a PEP ticket, but more startled at how they bungle the program when one tries to work its options. I finally received a court hearing notice from the PEP without warning two weeks after it mailed me its 30-day default plus penalty alert. By then my payment check had cleared the bank. I went to the Federal Way court information/payment clerk to ask what was going on, who verified simply that the violation status was paid and closed, and that the hearing was canceled.
What was the Federal Way City Council thinking? To be jerked around like this is an outrage to its citizenry, and I am certain there are more with the same steaming complaint. Let us tell the city council that we want the PEP less revenue-oriented, handled with more simplistic resolution and an empowered city staff to resolve the abnormalities as experienced above.
John Halvorsen, Federal Way