Traffic cameras to capture speedsters

ROGERS – Speeding motorists who travel through this village have until late August to slow down or they will be ticketed under the new traffic camera system Village Council voted to put in place.

Council enacted an ordinance allowing motorists to be cited through a new traffic camera system, immediately triggering a 30-day grace period before citations will actually be issued.

Signs were posted last week at the village limits warning approaching motorists that traffic cameras will be in place. This is a requirement of the new ordinance adopted by council.

“The cameras will be there so people can not only see the signs but the cameras before they become operational,” said Dorian Grubaugh, a representative for Optotraffic LLC, the company council contracted with in March to provide, operate and maintain the laser-radar traffic cameras.

Before the traffic camera system could be implemented, council needed to adopt an ordinance giving the village the legal authorization for Optotraffic to cite motorists on its behalf, which is what council did last week. The company will mail out the speeding citations in return for 40 percent of the fine money, with the village pocketing the rest, which could be substantial given traffic patterns.

The ordinance establishes a fine of $100, which could be increased to $125 and then $180 if the offender fails to make payment within 30 days. The motorist can contest the citation by having the matter heard in a Columbiana County Municipal Court, which is something that was added to the ordinance by the new village solicitor to address legal issues in traffic camera lawsuits currently pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Grubaugh said the cameras are likely to be installed within two weeks, but tickets will not be issued for another two weeks or so after that because of the 30-day grace period.

“I would say by the third week in August they should be operational,” he said.

Before then, Optotraffic is to meet with village officials to determine what speed limit they want to establish before citations will be issued. The speed limit in town is 35 mph, and Grubaugh said the average speed enforcement in Ohio is 10 mph over the limit. Mayor Sandy Chambers indicated they were considering 12 mph over the limit.

Grubaugh said during the first month repeat offenders will be limited to only two citations because it is Optotraffic’s experience that some motorists can wrack up multiple offenses during the initial 30 days of a traffic camera system being installed.

“These are some of the things we’ll be talking about to them,” he said.

The ordinance must also be posted in five public locations throughout the village, and the village must also pay a police officer to sign off on the citations before they can be issued. There was some question whether the ordinance also had to be published in a local newspaper that serves the village.

An attorney must also be hired to preside over any hearings that may result, and the village solicitor also recommended they meet with the municipal court judges to discuss how this will work since Rogers is the first community in Columbiana County with traffic cameras.

Council has been talking about going with traffic cameras for the past 18 months. They finally decided to go forward earlier this year as a way to slow traffic in the crossroads community of 235 residents after the one-man police department was dissolved in 2013 due to lack of funding.

“Our goal with Optotraffic is to lower our speeding and come up with enough proceeds to hire a police officer or two,” said Councilman Tom Chambers. “But our whole goal is safety.”

A traffic study performed in April by Optotraffic showed 73 percent to 85 percent of motorists traveling through the village, depending on the direction, exceeded the 35 mph speed limit.