- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Officials in northwest Iowa’s Woodbury County are considering creating a collections department to go after nearly $12 million in unpaid court fines.

The Sioux City Journal reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/NoSKLG ) that part of the money would go to the county, so improving collections would help the local budget, though part also goes to the state.

Several other Iowa counties - including Linn, Polk and Plymouth counties - have already established successful collections programs for unpaid court fines. Usually the job is handled either by the county attorney or sheriff.

Woodbury County Attorney P.J. Jennings said he plans to propose creating a collections department later this year to go after the fines judges impose in criminal cases.

“I do believe it is a topic that should be explored and if successful would potentially be a good source of revenue for the county,” Jennings said.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office has had a collections program in place since 2003. Major Doug Riniker oversees the effort and said the office collected $807,000 in the most-recent fiscal year.

Linn County now has five people working either full or part time on the collections effort, but officials say the new revenue for the county exceeds the cost of those employees.

“This is an untapped resource and I would tell Woodbury County to do this,” Riniker said.

Plymouth County Auditor Stacey Feldman said their program has worked well over the past seven years. This year, Plymouth County is expecting $100,000 for its general fund and $50,000 for the county attorney’s budget from the fine collections.

“Once you get the program established, it’s pretty healthy money,” Feldman said. “It’s a win-win.”

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com