• Appealing Wilmington

    An ongoing conversation about Wilmington's parking tickets, appeals, towing, and booting issues

  • The Lawsuit

    Wilmington, Delaware, issues a lot of parking tickets and then allows private companies to tow any car with more than $200 in outstanding fines. Rather than pay money to those companies for their services, the city contractually empowers the towing companies to keep and scrap cars. The tow companies get to keep the full value of the cars: If a car is worth more than the amount of ticket debt, the tow companies keep the excess value, and, in fact, the proceeds from scrapping the vehicle aren’t even used to pay off the tickets. In the end, Wilmington doesn’t pay for its impound program, the private tow companies make money by scrapping people’s property, and car owners lose their vehicles without compensation.

     

    Click Here to get details about the federal lawsuit filed to remedy this by the Institute for Justice

    17 de junio de 2024
    This lawsuit is scheduled to be heard July 15 - 17, 2024  
  • Background

    The first attempt at parking reform in Wilmington

    Back in 2011 and 2012, a group of citizens in Wilmington engaged with the city to improve the policies and practices regarding parking tickets - see WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com for more on that success.

     

    It appears there's now a situation with the appeals process for parking tickets in Wilmington. We're ready to step up and do our part to help the city of Wilmington by analyzing data and reviewing policies and practices to find ways to streamline the process and make the system run more efficiently for everyone.

    Wilmington Parking PSA #1

    Produced Oct. 8, 2011

    for more information, go to WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com

    Wilmington Parking PSA #2

    Produced Dec. 10, 2011

    for more information, go to WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com

    Wilmington Parking PSA #3

    Produced Dec 17, 2011

    for more information, go to WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com

    Wilmington Parking PSA #4

    Produced Dec. 29, 2011

    for more information, go to WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com

  • Stories from the street

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    Waiting a year...

    Alessandra Nicole story

    So, I *finally* got the money the city of Wilmington has owed me for more than a year.

    Here’s the story:

    - January, 2017 – I receive a red-light camera ticket for $110 – paid for it through J.P. Court

    - February 25, 2019 – I went on the city’s website to pay for a couple of parking tickets and clicked the “pay all” button before realizing the city still had the 2017 citation still listed in its system.

    - February – November, 2019 – I made multiple calls and trips to both J.P. Court and the City/County Building trying to get my $110 back – both sides pointed to the other, but it’s obvious this is a city issue

    - November 4, 2019 – I emailed the city and received an email from City Finance Director Brett Taylor stating, “We can refund the payment. Let me get staff on the issue.”

    - Rest of 2019 – crickets

    - January 16, 2020 – I sent a third follow-up email to the city and received an email from Deputy Chief of Staff John Rago stating “We will report back to you today on this matter.”

    - Rest of January – crickets

    - February 7, 2020 – I received a call from the City of Wilmington to confirm my address, they told me they would be mailing a check for $110 and saying, “We were not aware of this issue and we apologize.”

    - February 25, 2020 – I called to find out what was happening, they said they were surprised I hadn’t received anything yet and said they would look into it

    - February 28, 2020 – I receive my check – issued on February 26, 2020 – it only took a year and three days – multiple visits, emails, and phone calls.

     

    SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

     

    1. Why was the $110 ticket still in the city’s system almost two years after I had paid for it?

    2. Are there others who have paid their tickets that the city still mistakenly has in its system?

    3. Why did it take more than a year to straighten out what should have been a very easy fix?

    4. How many other people have hit this wall of bureaucracy and just given up?

    5. Why would we face late fees of $20 if we take more than 20 days to pay a fine, and $60 if we take more than 90 days, but the city can take more than a year to repay money without any penalty at all?

     

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    Let's blame the victim for our lack of common sense...

    Stephany Pachowka story

    • 10/30/19 – parking ticket erroneously issued to Stephany Pachowka on the 100 block of E. 10th Street – Ticket WMP11790359 for $40
    • 11/5/19 – Mrs. Pachowka files an appeal in person at the City/County Building, shows the clerk the receipt from Parkmobile showing that she had paid for the time she was parked – clerk says the matter should be cleared up quickly since the ticket was obviously a mistake
    • 11/6/19 – Mrs. Pachowka receives a “Notification of Parking Violation” dated 11/4/19
    • 12/16/19 – Mrs. Pachowka receives a “Notice of Violation” stating she had “failed to respond” to the parking ticket and now owed the City of Wilmington $60
    • 12/17/19 – 12/20/19 – Mrs. Pachowka attempts to call the City of Wilmington several times to find out what was happening – she was put on hold for an extended period of time with each call and finally gave up until after the holidays
    • 1/8/20 – Mrs. Pachowka was finally able to connect with a City employee on the phone who told her the appeal was denied and there was nothing she could do about it but pay the now $80 fine
    • 1/12/20 – Mrs. Pachowka posts about her experience on a Facebook story from Delaware Business Now about Wilmington parking and tags both the Mayor’s office and AAA – Ken Grant from AAA asked Mrs. Pachowka to take the conversation offline and email him directly with the details – she provides details and documentation
    • 1/13/20 – Jim Lardear with AAA emails the information to John Rago and Brett Taylor with the City to investigate
    • 1/14/20 – Brett Taylor emails:  I have dismissed the ticket for Ms. Pachowka.  Unfortunately when entering the Parkmobile system, Ms. Pachowka entered only the numerical portion of her tag (47399), instead of PC47399.
    • 1/17/20 – Mrs. Pachowka receives a phone call from a City employee: “she didn’t have information on my ticket just wanted to tell me how to avoid mistakes in the future with using the ParkMobile app”
    • 1/21/20 – Mrs. Pachowka receives an “Overdue Violations Notice” dated 1/16/20 stating “City of Wilmington records show that payment of the above violation(s) is still outstanding. This is the second notice that you have been sent on these violations” and indicating she now owed the City $80
    • As of 1/30/20, Mrs. Pachowka has not received a written response to the appeal she filed on 11/5/19. The city can't understand why she would need a written response to her appeal.
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    Fewer than 1% of cases

    This chart is based on information obtained through FOIA requests with the City of Wilmington and information provided by the Courts.

     

    Keep in mind the Office of Civil Appeals is NOT a part of the judicial branch and appears to operate without standards or accountability.

     

    When anyone in authority asks the City about the Office of Civil Appeals, the City now claims it is simply an administrative procedure designed to streamline issues and prevent J.P. Court from being overwhelmed. BUT, when a driver is appealing a ticket, they are not told this is an “administrative procedure” – they are led to believe that they are in the middle of a legal proceeding and if they are told that the appeal is denied, then there is nothing else they can do.

     

    It may be worth noting that when I spoke with the magistrate at J.P. Court in 2019, he was unaware of the Office of Civil Appeals and was working under the assumption that drivers appearing before him were at the very beginning of their appeals process.

     

     

    Year

    Tickets Issued

    Tickets appealed

    Appeals granted (by Office of Civil Appeals)

    Appeals denied (by office of civil appeals)

    Appealed to J.P. Court

    Percentage of cases appealed to J.P. Court

    2012

    66,267

    5,743

    2,766

    2,977

    107

    3.6%

    2013

    76,315

    5,513

    4,770

    743

    31

    4.2%

    2014

    62,215

    4,060

    3,551

    509

    27

    5.3%

    2015

    67,687

    3,867

    1,482

    2,385

    61

    2.6%

    2016

    67,246

    4,139

    1,484

    2,655

    12

    0.5%

    2017

    55,108

    2,811

    872

    1,939

    9

    0.5%

    2018

    57,361

    4,414

    1,785

    2,629

    8

    0.3%

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Never going to write...

    Kim Bechard

    I got a ticket in April 2016. I immediately wrote an appeal. I never received the written decision even though the parking division claims that it was mailed.

    The ticket is paid, but I still want my written decision. I've been calling, writing letters, and emailing since April. No luck. I'm not ready to give up. Can anyone help? I can't be the only one and I'm sure most people just let it go.

     

    Thanks,
    Kim Bechard

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    Two tickets = car towed and scrapped

    Ameera Shaheed

    Ameera Shaheed says she has lived in the same home in Wilmington for 12 years without any problems with parking tickets. In early September, 2019, a PREO got into an argument with her (she said the PREO told her she had to move her car that had been parked in the same spot for a few days, she told him that she simply had not gone out).

     

    After that, she says she started receiving a parking ticket each day for the next two weeks. The city says it only issued four parking tickets to her.

     

    She appealed the tickets, but then received a notice that her vehicle was in danger of being towed because of the excessive fines. Please note – by appealing the tickets, all collection efforts are supposed to be put on hold.

     

    Then her car was towed and scrapped.

     

    The city dropped all but two of the parking tickets.

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    What P.O. Box?

    Experience of a Wilmington business owner

    The experience of a Wilmington business owner:

     

    • 10/23/18 - received email stating "Digital Residential Perking Permit has been approved".
    • 11/9/18 Parking Violation Received 
    • 11/12/18 spoke with (City official) at 302-571-4320, option "2". The reason for my call was to inquire about the ticket since we had received an email stating the Parking Permit had been approved.  After explaining the details, (City Official) told me the 'ticket would be removed'.
    • 11/14/18 I followed up with (City Official) to make sure everything was taken care of.  He assured me the ticket had been voided.  
    • 11/14/18 On the same day we received a SECOND email stating the Parking Permit had been approved.  
    • 12/3/18 We received a NOTIFICATION OF PARKING VIOLATION letter stating the Parking Violation was still active.  I once again spoke with (City Official) at which time he denied telling me he would resolve the issue.  I immediately outlined all the facts up to this point in a letter to the 'Civil Director' as instructed on the Violation Notice and filed an appeal and mailed it immediately.  To date I have never heard anything in response to my appeal letter. 
    • Assuming this problem was being worked out I waited for a response.  
    • Not sure of the exact date I received another NOTICE OF VIOLATION with a penalty added for a total of $60.  Being extremely frustrated I decided to mail a check for $60 using the "return envelope provided".  This was mailed on 1/12/19.  Several days later the "return envelope provided" was returned to me with a yellow sticker stating:  
      • RETURN TO SENDER.....NOT DELIVERABLE AS ADDRESSED....UNABLE TO FORWARD  
    • Totally perplexed as to how to resolve this issue, several days passed and towards the end of January I received an OVERDUE VIOLATIONS NOTICE stating I now owe $80.  
    • 2/6/19 I attempt once again to get this resolved by calling....since mailing with the "return envelope provided" did not work.  
      • Once again I get (City Official) on the phone.  I explained that the "return envelope provided" was returned to me.  He then proceeded to tell me several times that 'we don't send out envelopes'.  I explained that I have three of them sitting in front of me at that very moment.  He repeated that 'we don't send out envelopes'.  Then I asked him to look on a copy of a Violation notice that I hoped he had in front of him.  At that time, I pointed out that on the notice it also says to return payment to the same address that is on the "return envelope provided" which is PO Box 15377, Wilmington, DE 19850-5377.  He said he had never heard of PO Box 15377.  
      • Seemingly getting nowhere, I asked to speak to someone, a supervisor maybe who could at least take away the penalties that had been added to the original $40 fine.  He then said, "We can't take away penalties".  I tried to explain that none of this was our fault and that I really don't feel we should have to pay penalties.  He eventually transferred me to the "Civil Appeals Dept." where I was put into a voicemail.  I left a detailed message.  I have not heard back from anyone.  
      • Then I chose to call the same number back 302-571-4320 and decided to try Option "4" this time.  The message I got was, "All operators are busy now.  Please try your call again later."

     

    In February 2019, this driver reached out to AAA – AAA contacted officials in the City of Wilmington in an attempt to resolve this issue.

     

    On March 4, 2019, the driver received a voicemail simply stating that the appeal was successful.

    As of the writing of this report, this driver has not received anything in writing nor has the driver or AAA received any explanation about the false information provided by phone.

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    Higher tickets, more booting, more towing - Wilmington is #1!

    Comparing Wilmington to other cities, AAA finds the following:

     

    City

    Population

    Ticket price

    Parking Tickets issued 2018

    Parking tickets as population percentage

    Tows in 2018

    Boots in 2018

    Tows and Boots as population percentage

    Wilmington, DE

    71,525

    $40

    57,361

    80%

    2,987

    3,431

    8.9%

    New Britain, CT

    72,939

    $30

    7,800

    11%

    5

    6

    <0.1%

    Gastonia, NC

    73,209

    $5

    Less than 100

    <0.1%

    No towing

    No booting

    0%

    Evanston, Ill

    75,570

    $25

    86,000

    114%

    2,500

    450

    3.9%

    Arlington Heights, Ill

    75,994

    $25

    16,249

    21%

    836

    17

    1.1%

    Lynchburg, VA

    78,014

    $20

    5,444

    7%

    40

    No booting

    <0.1%

    Westland, MI

    82,578

    $25

    372

    <0.1%

    1,897

    No booting

    2.3%

    Bellflower, CA

    78,308

    $47

    34,889

    45%

    800

    No booting

    1%

    Washington, DC

    702,455

    $25

    1,417,000

    201%

    29,215

    4,301

    4.8%

    Santa Barbara, CA

    92,101

    $50

    81,485

    88%

    1,926

    No booting

    2%

    Newark, DE

    33,858

    $20

    31,206

    92%

    33

    373

    1.2%

     

     

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    A "gift" - or "Let's make a deal"

    Nadine Frost experience

    • December of 2012 – parked in the 700 block of Market Street before 10:00 for shopping (pop-up toy store) – then went to Bear for lunch and to get gas (has receipts) and goes back to Market street, this time parking on the 600 block at 2:30 – receives a ticket stating she was in the same spot for more than 2 hours
    • Submits appeal with copies of receipts showing she was in Bear in between the times and did not remain parked in the same spot for more than 2 hours
    • Appeal denied – again receiving the notice stating she had 15 days to appeal to Justice of the Peace Court, but letter was dated more than a week before the postmark
    • She requests a trial at Justice of the Peace Court – receives no response
    • In January 2014, goes to DMV to renew her vehicle registration and is told she owes the city of Wilmington $120 for the unpaid ticket
    • She goes to the City and is told they sent her a letter asking if she still wanted to appeal and when they didn’t get a response, they simply put her down as pleading guilty and continued adding late fees – she never received the letter they claimed they sent
    • The City told her they would give her a “gift” and only charge her $80, which she paid in order to get her vehicle registration renewed
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    The 404 day appeal process

    Susan Feely gets to hear all the excuses

    email from July, 2016:
     

    I was erroneously issued in Wilmington on June 11, 2015. I filed an appeal timely and then never heard anything further. I have left messages at the Appeals office for the past few months, trying to get my day in court, and could not get a return phone call. Finally walked into the office on June 16, 2016, more than a year after the ticket was issued, and spoke to Jennifer Prado. She looked into it and called me with the results of her investigation. Many excuses as to why my appeal, filed in September, has still not been scheduled for a court date. I then called JP Court 20 and spoke to a woman there who told me that all appeals sent to them had been scheduled. They had not received my appeal yet. I called Jennifer back and left her a message. She did not return my call. I called the Appeals office again on Tuesday and I don't expect to get a return call. I just don't want them to think I have forgotten about my ticket.

    update email from August 4, 2016:

    I was back at the Office of Civil Appeals this afternoon trying to get a court date scheduled for my ticket appeal with no luck. As a reminder, I was erroneously ticketed on June 11, 2015 and filed a civil appeal on September 10, 2015. I began to follow-up on this in January and have really focused on it since June. You wouldn’t believe the run around I am getting. Jill and Jennifer in that office said they will have Courtney Dixon call me tomorrow but I am not holding my breath.

    update email from September 27, 2016:

    I was correct when I assumed Courtney would not call me as Jill Morrison and Jennifer Prado in her office assured me she would.

    Today, I received a notice from the Department of Finance stating that I have "failed to respond" to the referenced parking ticket. I literally laughed out loud when I read that. It confirms my suspicion that the women I spoke to in the office, Jill and Jennifer, either did not know how to find the information I was requesting or they were outright lying. I asked several time during my last visit to their office where my ticket was in the process. When would it be scheduled for a hearing in front of the JP? They could only tell me it was "in the pipeline" and that I had to wait to hear from the Court. The fact that they were either unwilling or unable to look it up and give me a truthful response was telling. When I received this letter yesterday it confirmed that not only are the individuals working in that office incompetent, they are lacking in veracity.

    update from Oct. 31, 2016:

     

    Yes, my ticket has now been dismissed. I spoke at length to Courteney Dixon, who is the individual in charge of this process, on September 28, 2016. She finally called me after I had been requesting she do so for months and months. She told me that my ticket was one that was to be dismissed because her predecessor did not respond to my initial appeal in a timely manner. I really don’t believe that. It would have been resolved a year ago if that had been the case. I find it hard to believe that they are so incompetent, and their computers so outdated, that they could do have run a query and found my ticket among any others in a similar situation.

     

    Courteney phoned me in response to a message I had left her the previous day, on September 27th. I had finally been able to find her name in the city of Wilmington directory. I had repeatedly tried to find her number previously, but had been unable. However, on September 27th, after a bit of research on social media, I found that her first name is spelled in an unorthodox way. I was then able to find her in the Wilmington City directory and get right into her voicemail. When I had visited the Office of Civil Appeals in June and spoken to Jennifer Prado, and when I was in the office in August and had spoken to both Jennifer Prado and Jill Morrison, I had asked for Courteney’s phone number, however they both refused to give it to me. They told me that they would have Courteney call me back the next day. Of course, that never happened. So, on September 28th, when I finally spoke to Courteney, I told her that I had been promised a phone call from her months before, that I had been assured by Jill that she would call me. Courteney contends she never received any message or information that I had been in the office regarding this issue. Considering how that office seems to function, I am not sure whether I should believe her or not. On one hand, I believe the office is mismanaged and that my concerns were not taken seriously. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that neither Jennifer or Jill would have advised her regarding my conversation with them, especially because of the content and manner in which our conversation took place. Also, I found out Jill Morrison is her supervisor. Interesting that she had not mention that to me. At least one person is not being truthful, maybe all of them. Jill was one of the individuals with whom I spoke on August 4th, when I went into the office, and she and Jennifer both advised me that they could not access the ticket database and that Courteney was the only one that could do so. Now that I know Jill is her supervisor, I find it highly unlikely that she could not access the database which would have shown that my appeal was in no-man’s-land. If it is true, it is more evidence of incompetent management practices. In what offices does only one individual have access to important data? I also find it unlikely that Jill did not tell Courteney to look into the status of my ticket, if only to make sure I got on the JP Court’s docket so that I would not visit their office again. Conversely, I can’t imagine Courteney would not have researched and resolved this if she had been told how adamant I was that this be resolved, if just to get me to go away. It is very difficult to ascertain who, if anyone, has been honest throughout this ordeal, besides me. I had nothing to gain by insisting my ticket be addressed however I was the only one that seemed to be concerned that it had been left unresolved.

     

    Bottom line, there is a lot of CYA going on in that office. Resolving valid inquiries seems to be of no concern. Courteney said she is trying to clean up multiple issues left by her predecessor however that doesn’t excuse the issue I have had and the time I have spent trying to have it resolved. Also, her predecessor has been gone for months. It should not take that long. Lots of excuses.

     

    One interesting thing. I did mention I had signed onto the FOIA request because of the mismanagement of my ticket. She said, “Believe me, we are aware of the FOIA request.”

     

    I also heard from David Sophrin. I wonder what part his interest had in getting this issue resolved. I will forward the email he sent me to you. It does not really address why this ticket was not responded to, nor does it address the treatment I received from the Office of Appeals, from their incompetence to their dishonesty. I understand he works in the outgoing administration and so I put it down to that. I do have several suggestions as to how to improve the Office of Civil Appeals but am not convinced it is worth my time to put them in writing. I have spent so much time on this already, I don’t want to waste time making suggestions to an individual who will no longer be in a position to implement them in a couple of months.

     

    Thank you for your help getting this resolved. It might still be outstanding without your assistance.

     

    I have to say that the most troubling thing about this whole situation is not the error made when I was erroneously ticketed, but the disrespectful way I have been treated since that time. It is also quite disturbing to know that the initial appeal is not really taken seriously in the office, and that there is no documentation to support the tickets that are being written. If my initial appeal had been taken seriously, and documentation had been reviewed, my ticket would have been dismissed after that appeal. I absolutely had not violated the 2 hour time limit and that would have been obvious. I am very interested to find out how an appeal is actually handled in that office.

     

    I have received a letter from the City advising my ticked has been dismissed for the reason stated above. I don’t believe the reason given, everything I was told in that office in the last year has been untrue. Veracity and competence are sorely lacking.

  • Press

    Articles, podcasts, broadcast reports, and more...

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    from HOY en Delaware

    Posted April 23, 2023

    Ken Grant, advocate for parking reform, says the video series is designed to help educate the public and engage the city in a conversation about the need for a comprehensive review of the system that has been cobbled together over the past several decades.

     

    Click here for the complete article.

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    Some time on the Rick Jensen Show

    Posted April 10, 2023

    From the description of the Rick Jensen Show:

     

    "Rick is ranked as one the "100 Most Influential talk show hosts in America" and rarely mispronounces his own name."

     

    Click Here to listen to a podcast from April 10, 2023

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    How late fees, collection notices, miscommunication plague Wilmington parking enforcement 

    Posted March 8, 2023

    Drivers have received collection notices and delinquency letters for parking tickets that are dismissed; been cited late fees on parking tickets while they’re appealing them; and, in some instances, weren’t provided information on how to appeal the city’s administrative decisions to court in the first place.

     

    Click here for the complete article.

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    from the News Journal

    Posted Nov 17, 2022

    Three months after hearing arguments for dismissing a lawsuit against Wilmington over its towing and impoundment practices, U.S. District Chief Judge Colm Connolly issued an order Tuesday for the case to move forward.

     

    The judge’s written order Tuesday sets the stage for a trial to evaluate whether Wilmington’s parking enforcement policies violated residents’ constitutional rights.

     

    Click here for the complete article.

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    Tow company bid $0 storage fee, but charged Wilmington drivers thousands anyway

    Posted August 24, 2022

    When City Towing Services contracted with Wilmington to provide towing and impoundment services, the company agreed to charge nothing for storing vehicles it towed.

    The New Castle-based business also said it would charge only a penny for each car towed, its contract bid stated.

    But City Towing charged fees for storing cars towed in Wilmington anyway, taking owners and lienholders to court for thousands of dollars when those fees went unpaid, a Delaware Online/The News Journal review of Delaware Justice of the Peace Court filings show.

     

    Click here for the complete article.

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    WDEL: Wilmington's parking problems blown wide open

    Posted Sept. 17, 2019

    A local realtor has blown Wilmington's parking problems wide open in her more than year-long quest to appeal a single parking ticket she claims she received in error.

     

    Click here for the complete article.

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    from The News Journal

    posted July 5, 2016

    Concerns over Wilmington's parking tickets have come a long way since 2012, when a series of changes — from discounts for early payment to improved training for parking enforcement officers — took effect largely due to citizen efforts. Now another call is going out to address issues with the appeals process, but the activist leading the charge says it's about more than just tickets.

     

    Click Here for the complete article and video.

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    from Technical.ly Delaware

    Posted June 21, 2016

    The parking appeals process is supposed to take care of it but in many cases it’s an arduous and just plain counterproductive process with the Wilmington Parking Authority. That’s why Delaware social media star Ken Grant is trying to do something about it.

     

    Click here for the complete article.

  • LET'S CONNECT

    There's plenty of ways to get in touch...

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    P: +1 (302) 588-4151