WALTON HILLS — The village is moving ahead with installation of speed cameras, even though a law being discussed in the state legislature may withhold state funds and require tickets be processed in municipal court.
"If the legislature enacts the law (House Bill 410), we’ll just have to adjust and abide by it," said Mayor Kevin Hurst.
House Bill 410, approved by the House and now under consideration by the Ohio Senate, would eliminate an administrative appeals process the village had set up and would require all drivers contesting speed camera citations to go through a municipal or county court. It does not ban nor regulate traffic enforcement cameras.
Meanwhile, House Bill 410 additionally would require political subdivisions to annually report to the state the gross amount of fines collected from traffic camera enforcement.
Upon receiving the report, the state would subtract an equal amount from Local Government Fund revenue the political subdivision receives. LGF money withheld from political subdivisions would go to the Ohio Department of Transportation to enhance public safety.
Under the village’s current procedure, drivers who wish to dispute tickets can request an appeals hearing before a referee. If the law takes effect, speeders who wish to contest the ticket must appear before a judge.
Hurst last week said portable speed cameras are now in place, but fixed cameras are still being installed on Alexander, Dunham, Egbert, Sagamore and Walton roads. He said the roads were chosen because they are through residential areas and "there’s a lot of speeding going on there."
Hurst explained the system includes radar to determine speed, plus a camera that records license plate numbers and the driver’s picture.
"We’ll do whatever the legislation requires us to do," said the mayor. "But I think it will put a lot of extra work on Garfield Heights Municipal Court. It’s already swamped; sometimes there’s nowhere to park around the courthouse because of all the cases handled there.
"It seems to me there are other problems the state legislature could focus on; maybe something that would help municipalities instead of hinder them."
Hurst said the five roads where cameras will be installed have speed limits of 35 mph, and only drivers caught driving at least 15 mph over the limit will be ticketed.
He added the village has seen an increase in traffic and speeding violations since the Hard Rock Rocksino opened in nearby Northfield in late 2013.
According to an ordinance Village Council approved in December, the fine for going 15 to 19 mph over the speed limit will be $100, but will be $200 for drivers going 20 mph or more over the limit.
Hurst said under an Ohio Supreme Court ruling last year, tickets given to speeders caught by the cameras are considered a "civil matter" and fines can be imposed, but drivers will not have points placed on their licenses.
The village contracted with Gatso USA Inc. to manage the automated speed enforcement program. Gatso would collect either $30 or $33 per paid citation depending on which type of speed enforcement units catch speeders.
The mayor said if Gatso would incur higher costs because the contested cases are going to court instead of being handled administratively, the contract with Gatso could be modified to raise the $30 and $33 fees.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or email@example.com