Paying of court fines going hi-tech
Published 11:38 pm Monday, February 23, 2009
In the next few weeks, anyone with internet access and a violation citation in Pearl River County will able to log on and pay that fine without having to drive to the courthouse, stand in line, pay the clerk, wait for a receipt, and make the drive back home, but it comes at a price to the offender who pays a fine that way.
“We would like to go with NCourt so that the public can make payments of justice court fines online,” said Justice Court clerk Debby Amacker. “It will be another convenience for the public.”
Bill Giller of NCourt said the Georgia-based company has been in business for approximately eight years and that the company is a “bridge where the public can pay their fines” online. Giller said that several Mississippi counties already offer the service, including DeSoto, Forrest, and Jasper. “We provide the court with a secure website,” Giller said, “as well as an 800 number the public can call to pay.”
When Giller saidd that the county receives “100 percent of the fines and penalties,” District 3 supervisor Hudson Holliday questioned him as to how the company made any money. “So,” questioned Holliday, “How does the company get paid?”
Giller said that there is a “convenience fee” users are charged for utilizing the service, adding that a $100 fine would result in an additional fee of “ten or 11 dollars.”
“If I get a speeding ticket, I can go online, plead guilty, and pay my fine?” asked Holliday.
Giller replied that yes, he would be able to do so.
Amacker clarified that not every ticket would be able to be settled through the website, adding that if someone was actually arrested, they would not be able to simply circumvent court by trying to pay a fine through the online service. “We review each payment and citation, and if the person has actually been arrested, we reject the payment,” said Amacker, who told Board members that she had spoken with a justice court clerk in Forrest County who “loves the program.”
“She said she has absolutely no complaints” said Amacker.
She added that using the service would not prevent someone from doing business directly with the court and that the option of paying their fines through her office would still be available. “They can still conduct business with us as they normally would,” said Amacker. “And we can still take credit cards during normal business hours.”
Amacker said that the website was partially up and running, but that she hoped to have it completed within a few days. The website is located at http://pearlrivercotix.com
In other business, the Board of Supervisors approved allocating grant money set aside for the clean-up of illegal dumps to be used instead for a hazardous waste amnesty day. Once the Department of Environmental Quality approves the modification of the grant, a time and date, as well as designated drop sites will be announced.
Board members also approved for the county engineer to investigate a potential flood hazard being caused by a 100-foot beaver dam off of Fred Mallett Road in the Ozona community. Residents along the road presented to the board pictures of the dam and pointed out that some beavers were burrowing under the right of way alongside the road, and were within a few feet of the asphalt. “That road floods in a heartbeat,” said one of the residents. “The property owner won’t let the beaver man in there and the beaver man won’t go in without permission.”
He went on to explain that some of the beavers had actually “begun to burrow under the road and are within three feet of the asphalt.”
Board president and District 1 supervisor Anthony Hales said that when it comes to matters of public safety, the board can authorize the county engineer to look into the situation. “If it is a matter of public safety, we can take action,” said Hales.
Another county resident also appeared before the board members to ask for help for Living Waters Road, noting that a local developer had planned to build 44 homes off of the private road, and after widening it, “he took the crown right off the road.”
The resident said that any amount of rainfall at all creates a hazard and that even his truck gets torn up navigating it. “He basically destroyed the road,” said the resident. He said that the condition of the road limits access to emergency services and that “I can’t sell my house because of the condition of that road.”
Director of Planning, Ed Pinero, told board members that, in his opinion, the developer had “bailed before bringing [the road] up to code.”
Hales said that he understood and that the resident had “given a very fine argument,” but that the board’s hands might be tied when it came to forcing the developer to finish the road improvements. Hales told the resident, “I promise you this board will do what it legally can.”
The next board of supervisors meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday, March 2, at the courthouse on Julia Street in Poplarville.