Collin County won't cooperate to catch toll road scofflaws

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by JOBIN PANICKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @jobinpnews

WFAA

Posted on September 11, 2013 at 10:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 11 at 10:29 PM

It's supposed to be a tool for the North Texas Tollway Authority to get drivers to pay unpaid tolls and fines.

In June, the Texas legislature granted the agency the power to block vehicle registrations until dues were paid.

But Collin County Tax Assessor Collector Kenneth Maun says that is not his job. He says when people come to the county office to register a vehicle, they shouldn’t be told to go elsewhere to first pay the NTTA.

“I'm not staffed to serve NTTA, nor do I feel they're doing a competent job of collection,” Maun said.

There are currently 79,116 habitual violators who have outstanding tolls. The NTTA describes a "habitual violator" as a driver who has violated at least 100 transactions or tolls without paying. These violators owe roughly $53 million in outstanding tolls.

When the legislature granted toll authorities the power to block vehicle registrations, it required them to let delinquent drivers pay off the fines over three months.

“Here we are 90 days in and we've removed the fees, and what's the next argument? Why aren't you paying?” asked NTTA spokesman Michael Rey.

In that time, roughly 3,500 people have paid up, but that window is closing on Friday.

The NTTA says it's about fairness. It already has five-year agreements with Dallas and Denton counties, and soon with Tarrant, to help process with registration holds. Rey said those agreements let counties collect, through small fees, to help pay for any processing.

Maun says registration holds would require seven more employees to process. And says his current employees don't have time to process these holds without hurting an average service time of three minutes for customers.

“They already have to pay us for a piece of plastic. They're not going to like coming here and being denied that piece of plastic and have to pay a lot more elsewhere,” Maun said.

Of the 79,116 habitual violators 16,831 are from Collin County, representing 21 percent of the outstanding tolls.

“I think any message that says don't pay for what you used is a bad message,” said Rey.

Maun says exercising these holds would only open the door for other agencies to ask the county do the same for them.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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