Enumclaw tackles unpaid court fines with new collection agency

At the close of 2014

A new collection agency is being called upon to crack down on those who ignore fines levied by the Enumclaw Municipal Court system.

The city already goes after those who will not – or can not – pay the fines levied for a variety of offenses. But after two years the results have been deemed unsatisfactory, so another agency has been solicited in hopes of collecting outstanding fines.

In a memo to Mayor Liz Reynolds and the seven-member City Council, city Finance Director Stephanie McKenzie explained that state law permits cities to retain agencies to collect public debt. About 15 percent of the fines levied by the court are paid at City Hall, she wrote; the rest, if unpaid and eventually deemed delinquent, are handed to an outside collection agency.

The dollars being discussed are not inconsequential. At the close of 2014, Enumclaw Municipal Court was owed more than $1.4 million, according to a state report.

Concern over delinquent payments had prompted the council in December 2013 to hire Merchant Credit Services.

“Unfortunately, we have not experienced the increase in collection rates we were hoping for,” McKenzie said when she appeared before the council Sept. 14.

Unhappy with that outcome, she said, the court system asked that another firm be brought on board. Members of the council unanimously agreed to turn half the court’s outstanding balances over to Dynamic Collectors, a company based in Chehalis, Wash.

Dynamic has “a proven track record” with other cities, McKenzie wrote, including nearby Bonney Lake.

At the end of the year, the court will look at results generated by both MCS and Dynamic and select one to handle collections for the coming year.

On another matter during the Sept. 14 meeting – a brief session that lasted only 27 minutes – the council agreed some financial relief was in order for the local Helac Corp.

Helac, which operates out of a facility on Battersby Avenue, is planning an expansion that will add 16,711 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space.

The city assesses transportation impact fees on such development and, according to an existing formula, Helac was in line for an assessment of $60,327. City codes allow for an independent calculation and, in this case, a revised assessment came in at $28,074.

Such a revision requires council approval, which was provided unanimously.