Beginning Monday, vehicle owners who have five or more unpaid parking tickets or who owe $250 or more will receive warning letters, city officials said.

The city of Ashland is cracking down on 92 people who collectively owe the city more than $70,000 in unpaid parking tickets and fines.

"Some people have dozens of tickets and some are at 50 or over," Ashland Finance Director Lee Tuneberg said Thursday. "The highest amount one person owes as of today is $5,520."

Tuneberg declined to provide names of the parking rule violators, but said some are people known to work downtown or who visit the downtown regularly.

A parking ticket costs about $11. Some of the violators have tickets that date back to 2007, Tuneberg said.

Beginning Monday, vehicle owners who have five or more unpaid parking tickets or who owe $250 or more will receive warning letters, city officials said.

Each vehicle owner previously received seven notices — with two of those coming from a collection agency, city officials said.

Violators who get warning letters from the city will have to make payment arrangements. For those who don't respond, the city will send out a second warning letter on March 15 via certified mail. The second letter will serve as a 10-day notice and inform recipients that their vehicle will be immobilized with a "boot" and towed after at least 24 hours if the vehicle is parked on public streets or public property, city officials said.

Booting will begin on March 29. Once a boot is put on a vehicle, the owner will not be able to work out a monthly payment plan. Instead, the full amount owed must be paid, said Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer.

If the vehicle is towed, the owner must pay parking tickets and fines plus booting, towing and impoundment fees to get the vehicle back, city officials said.

The city of Ashland contracts with Diamond Parking to enforce city parking laws.

Vehicle owners with unpaid parking tickets should call Diamond Parking directly at 541-552-1422.

City officials said the purpose of timed parking in the downtown area is to keep vehicles rotating so that space is available for people to come to downtown.

In 2008, then-Mayor John Morrison appointed residents and business owners to a Downtown Task Force that was convened to look at enforcement issues.

The task force recommended against booting for parking law scofflaws, but endorsed towing. Some task force members said booting looks like an aggressive, big-city tactic. They also worried that booted vehicles would take up parking spaces before they are towed.

However, an Ashland City Council majority voted to allow the city to boot and tow the vehicles of people with substantial unpaid parking tickets and fines.

Because a vehicle will be booted first, the offender will have a chance to pay tickets and fines before the vehicle is towed and impounded, some City Council members reasoned.

City Administrator Martha Bennett said at the time that it would cost a person about $250 to pay towing and impound fees — on top of the amount already owed for unpaid parking tickets.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.