Refunds for MB helmet law fines hit the mail

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The City of Myrtle Beach has mailed refunds to motorcyclists who paid fines for not wearing helmets inside city limits.

During the time the city required helmets for motorcyclists, 389 people were ticketed. Approximately 141 of those tickets were paid, and the city is refunding those payments.

Not everyone who paid had shelled out the full $100 fine, so the refund total is $13,964.

"The law was deemed invalid so we needed to give the money back," stated city spokesperson Mark Kruea.

The Myrtle Beach Clerk of Court used a computer database to look up the names of people who had paid the fines and mailed the refunds between June 23-28. The record of those tickets was then expunged from the system.

Kruea said the city also decided to pay back interest on the fines.

"Our interest is in making the customer whole and to do that we need to pay a little bit of interest to them," Kruea said.

The city's finance director Maria Baisden said was told by the city attorney to send the interest payments. The interest will be paid based on when the ticket was paid.

"It's going to be anywhere from $10.45 to as little as 58 cents [for each ticket]," Baisden said.

The checks for interest are scheduled to be printed and mailed Friday morning. The process is mostly automated Baisden said, but the address for each check did have to be entered manually based on the address written on each ticket.

"They're actually going to have to enter all this information," Baisden said Thursday morning. "There's no purchase order already set up. So it's not quite as automated as what we normally do, because it's a special project. It's something we're only going to do one time."

While the refunds simply give back money paid to the city, paying interest creates an extra cost. The total interest being paid is $869.45. Mailing the refunds and the interest checks costs the city $124.08.

Baisden said there may be a few more tickets that are refunded, so the totals could increase slightly.

Defending the helmet law in court was a totally different cost for the city. That cost came to a total of $64,000 in legal fees, but Kruea said that money is built into the annual budget.

"We have to defend ourselves," Kruea said. "When the city believes it's in the right it needs to defend itself. It's just a cost of doing business."

If that legal money is not used each year it can carry over to the next year, but Kruea said it would be considered a bonus. He said the legal fees did not take anything away from the city's next budget.

"I think you can play 'what if' with it forever," Kruea commented. "I don't know that that's a practical way to look at this particular issue."

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