Councilmen wish to reconsider traffic-camera system

ROGERS – While most of this past week’s Village Council meeting was taken up with trying to appoint enough members to conduct business, several councilmen said they would like to reconsider hiring a company to install and operate a traffic-camera system to catch speeding motorists.

Meanwhile, council has invited a representative from the state auditor’s office to attend its Feb. 10 meeting to discuss what is involved in dissolving the village and the impact it would have on services, taxes etc.

Before council could get to any of that, however, they needed a quorum of members to conduct a meeting. Entering 2014, only three of the six council positions were filled – Mike Hunt, Marilyn Locke and Jayne Balmenti. There was a fourth council member, Tom Chambers, who was appointed late in the year to a vacant slot, but his term expired at the end of 2013.

The start of the meeting was delayed nearly an hour until Balmenti arrived, at which point she, Hunt and Locke voted to reappoint Chambers, giving them the quorum needed to conduct business. Those four then voted to appoint Chambers’ wife, Sandra, to council. Those five then appointed Shelley Smith to the sixth council seat.

Rogers was also without a mayor entering 2014 after incumbent Sharon Hebron declined to seek re-election last year and no one else ran for the position. Council solved the problem by appointing Mrs. Chambers council president, which under Ohio law, automatically made her mayor since the position was vacant. This dropped council back to five members.

Later in the meeting, Hunt, who was appointed council president, said he intends to invite Optotraffic back to their March 10 meeting to resume discussions with the company about providing traffic-camera services. “I think it would be worthwhile to have them back,” he said.

Council was poised to hire Optotraffic last spring but those efforts came to a halt after village Solicitor Michelle Simonelli said they needed to seek competitive bids before hiring anyone. Simonelli prepared a 20-plus page contract but no company submitted a bid, so the plan languished for the past six months.

Hunt wants to reconsider using traffic cameras to curtail speeding in the village of 237 residents since they lack a police department. He believes the original concerns about successful lawsuits are overblown, noting communities around Cleveland and Toledo continue to use traffic cameras, which have withstood other legal challenges – although others are still pending.

Hunt said he contacted an Ohio village that began using traffic cameras last year. “They had some safety issues and it appears to be working. It’s slowed the speeding tremendously,” he said.

Mr. Chambers would also like to take another look at using traffic cameras. “I just see people buzzing through” Rogers, he said.

Communities that use traffic cameras have made a significant amount of money. Elmwood, a village of 2,000 near Cincinnati, received $800,000 in fine money the first six months the Optotraffic system was in operation.

Hunt said council would likely have to rescind the resolution creating the restrictive contract and bid requirements drafted by Simonelli, who did not attend the meeting. Fiscal Officer Dale Davis said Simonelli has taken another village solicitor position for a village council that meets the same night as Rogers. Davis said Simonelli told him to advise council if they want to retain her services they will need to change meeting nights.

Council indicated they opposed moving the meeting night and will instead begin looking for someone to replace Simonelli if she is no longer serving as solicitor. Hunt said he will call Simonelli but they should be prepared to hire a replacement by their Feb. 10 meeting, if need be.