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Phoenix will offer drivers a chance to clear slate

PHOENIX — Drivers with suspended licenses and unpaid fines will get a chance to clean things up and get back on the road — at a discount.

Following the lead of other cities in the valley, Phoenix will offer residents with suspended licenses, for which fines have been sent to collections, a chance to have their fines reduced, which could make license reinstatement more likely.

The City Council voted this week to sponsor a six-week amnesty program running from Feb. 1 through May 15. Under the program, base fines would be reduced by 25 percent, while interest and added collection fees would be reduced 50 percent for any fines paid during the amnesty period.

Medford and Central Point offered similar programs last year to encourage suspended drivers to clean up their records and deal with lingering fines.

Municipal Court Clerk Kathy Greenwood said the economy and the high number of license "holds" city residents had on file with the state Department of Motor Vehicles led to the program.

Greenwood said the city offered a smaller, non-publicized version of the program last year, and fewer than two- dozen drivers responded.

"This year, times are still really tough, and people need their license to be able to get to work," Greenwood said.

"It's a good deal to get 25 percent off the base fine and 50 percent off the interest because that's where the most money is with those old tickets."

If no other fines have been assessed to an individual's license, an additional $75 reinstatement fee at DMV would put him or her back on the road, Greenwood said.

"It's very beneficial to the people needing to take care of those tickets, and this is the best time of year to do it," said Southern Oregon Credit Services President Brian Watkins, a collection agency under contract with the city.

"They correspond the offer with the time people are getting tax refunds and those type of things," Watkins said. "It's nice to get those old tickets cleaned up, and any discount is a good discount."

Greenwood said individuals with old citations should contact Southern Oregon Credit Services at 541-773-6238.

Those in need of citation information can contact City Hall at 541-535-1955.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com