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Posted: 01/09/13

Above, Randy Spangler received 22 notifications from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority saying he didn't pay at toll booths. Despite photos showing a Michigan State Police vehicle in each instance, the authority said Spangler was responsible for $1,100-plus in fines.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Relief effort takes its toll
on Bruce Twp resident

MSP vehicle confused with
resident's motor scooter

Observer Staff Writer
      Randy Spangler of Bruce Township was confused when the New Jersey Turnpike Authority demanded he pay more than $1,100 in fines for skipping out on paying toll booths.
       His confusion, however, was justified<the vehicle the authority associated with these fines was sitting in his garage collecting dust when the violations occurred.
       From mid-November to mid-December, Spangler received notifications from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority that a vehicle registered to him went through several toll booths on the turnpike without paying.
       Spangler said he received 22 notices from the authority, each telling him to pay the missed tolls as well as a $50 fine within 15 days of being notified.
       "I got as many as seven in one day," he said.
       The photos attached to each notification clearly show a fully marked Michigan State Police (MSP) vehicle. Spangler, a project sales engineer with MAG, said not only does he not work for MSP, he hasn't been to New Jersey. Despite this, though, the turnpike authority held him responsible.
       "They basically told me no excuses accepted," he said. "They said just go ahead and pay it and I'd have to take care of it myself to get reimbursed if such a thing was available."
       Frustrated, Spangler pursued the matter further, and was told to obtain a vehicle affidavit showing all the vehicles he has ever owned and all the license plate numbers associated with those vehicles to have the fines canceled.
       The problem, though, was that he would have to request this data through state offices in Lansing, which would be at his cost.
       "I was stuck between a rock and a hard place," he said. "I couldn't get the E-ZPass in New Jersey to listen to me or help me in any way."
       State aid
       While in the process of requesting his affidavit, Spangler received a call from the MSP explaining everything. He was told the MSP was asked to send troopers to assist in the Hurricane Sandy relief effort in early November.
       In doing so, troopers were told to go through toll booths without paying to expedite their trip.
       MSP 1st Lt. Mike Krumm was the detail commander for the trooper's Hurricane Sandy response. He said of the 12 vehicles the state police sent to assist in the relief effort, nine of their license plates led back to citizens.
       "If they ran the plate not as the state police but just for the number, it came back to private citizens," Krumm said. "Some were historical, some were motorcycles."
       In Spangler's case, the license plate belonged to his restored 1957 Cushman Eagle motor scooter, which has an expired historic plate. He received the bike when he was 13 years old and used it on his family's farm, but now only uses the bike in parades.
       "I had no idea that this was the number on my bike," Spangler said. "I haven't had the need to renew it."
       Krumm said he contacted Spangler and the remaining eight individuals and told them to forward any of the notifications to the state police. The MSP provided a letter that instructed Spangler to return the letter and the notifications back to have it cleared up.
       "We would then forward them onto New Jersey to ensure those folks weren't responsible," Krumm said.
       Krumm said the MSP were deployed for two weeks to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as assisting local law enforcement with patrols and criminal arrests.
       "The people of New Jersey were great in receiving us, and loved the fact that Michigan troopers came over 700 miles to help them," he said.
       This is the second time in history the MSP sent troopers to assist in disaster relief. The first was in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina.
       As for Spangler, he said he will probably renew his historic plate this summer, and now chuckles at the situation in hindsight.
       "It was an honest mistake, it was kind of comical after things finally settled down," he said. "In the beginning I was a little panicked."

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