The city will pay less money to process the roughly 45,000 parking tickets handed out each year, but the fees for violations won't be reduced.

A switch from Turbo Data Systems to Data Ticket Inc. is expected to save the city between $15,000 to $25,000 over the five years of the contract. However, the fine imposed for overstaying the time on city meters or overlapping the lines that delineate parking spaces will still cost $43.

"All traffic fines in Laguna are $43, except violations of handicap parking, which are $300," said Jim Beres, police department civilian supervisor."

The fines fall about midway among large and coastal cities in Orange County, according to a recent survey. An assessment of the number of tickets issued annually has not been conducted.

Bids for the processing contract were reviewed by staff for per-ticket costs to the city and other criteria, including technology that works with the city's goal of 95% automated enforcement.

Data Ticket's was not the lowest bid, but less than the current vendor's.

"Savings are savings," said City Manager John Pietig, when asked by Councilman Steve Dicterow if it made sense to change vendors for the difference in costs.

Turbo Data spokesman Doug Amos said the more prudent course would be to stick with his company. He asked the council to pull the item from the agenda for further pricing consideration.

"We feel that the full scope of what we already do for you wasn't presented," Amos said.

Amos said Turbo's revised bid of 55 cents per citation could cost the city $20,000 less than its current contract, but the bid was still 13 cents higher per citation than Data Ticket's proposal.

Turbo Data has provided the city with exceptional service for the past six years, staff reported, but the reduction in annual costs tilted the decision toward the switch.

"We looked at primary costs," said Jim Beres, police department civilian supervisor.

The top four costs include processing, delinquent notice mailings, out-of-state collections and administrative hearing letters. Data Ticket's bid was lower in all but the administrative hearing letter.

The lowest bid in all categories was submitted by Cite Zone, a San Clemente firm. Staff met with company representatives to review the company's software, which would be used by the city's parking services clerk, and found it wanting.

Staff reported that it was cumbersome compared to software used by either Turbo Data or Data Ticket and would shift work back to the city, which would diminish the savings benefit.

The switch will entail printing of new tickets and envelopes with information about the new company and a modification of the city's website.