Caught on camera, going to court

EAST LIVERPOOL — While communities around the state of Ohio are scrambling to meet a July 1 deadline involving their traffic camera citations, officials from the City of East Liverpool appear undaunted.

Review area travelers have quickly become accustomed to slowing down to a near crawl on state Route 30 in various locations, such as the roads between East Liverpool and Calcutta and in Liverpool Township around Kountz Road, where badgewearing, camera-wielding police officers sometime lurk during higher traffic areas, clocking one’s vehicle and delivering a speeding ticket in one’s mailbox within the next week or so.

Other communities have long used red light cameras, which are triggeredd each time a vehicle passes over a sensor and photographs one’s license plate and driver and mailing a ticket to the address of the offending ticket.

In April, Gov. Mike DeWine approved an $8 billion, two-year transportation budget without vetoing legislative language that financially punishes cities that operate automated red-light and speed-enforcement cameras. while including hikes on gasoline and diesel fuel at the beginning of July.

Under the bill, the state would withhold millions in state tax revenue-sharing dollars from camera-using cities to wipe out any financial gain they might realize from civil fines issued for violations and eliminates the administrative hearing process that the jurisdictions were using to people who have objected to the $100+ tickets instead handling it over to municipal and county courts to oversee.

Attempts to contact East Liverpool Municipal Judge Melissa Byers-Emmerling on the decision, as she will begin hearing contested camera tickets, were unsuccessful; however, city Safety-Service Brian Allen offered few words on the subject, considering the current practice of operation has landed the city in litigation.

When contacted, Allen responded, “The city administration and the municipal court have worked together to ensure the process meets the requirements set forth by the state legislature and do not expect any delays or disruptions in the photo speed enforcement program operated by the East Liverpool Police Department. I will have no further comment on the matter.”

Although the city of East Liverpool seemed committed to their camera program, Liverpool Township seemed a little torn about how the law might impact them and whether they would continue utilizing the program.

East Liverpool’s speed cameras generated a little more than $1 million in fine money last year, of which 60 percent, or $633,190, went to the city. East Liverpool’s LGF allocation for this year is expected to total $95,101. Liverpool Township earned $488,376 with its cut of the cameras, which is significally more than its estimated LGF allocation for this year which is $43,956.

Wellsville also briefly had a traffic camera contract with Blue Line Solutions Inc., which gave no reason for terminating it. Village Mayor Nancy Murray said at the time, “This is just my personal opinion, but collections weren’t high enough,” Murray said. “They didn’t put any reason in the e-mail stating their reason to cancel. No phone call or nothing from them, just an e-mail.”

Its program had only generated around $22,000 as of May 2018, and Wellsville returned all the equipment back to the company that was provided.

The Ohio Senate’s Democrats urged him to strike the cameras from the law, saying they are proven deterrents for traffic violations and erratic driving. “Law enforcement and city leaders should have the ability to use photoenforcement technology as a tool to improve public safety without being punished with funding cuts and unnecessary reporting requirements,” their letter concluded.