What now for EL traffic camera fight?
EAST LIVERPOOL — According to city Police Chief John Lane, the two $15,000 handheld traffic cameras that brewed disgust for many local voters were packed up and returned earlier this week.
Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam lifted his temporary restraining order in the ballot issue battle, allowing for the votes to be counted and then certified in the East Liverpool Citizens Against Traffic Cameras, which revealed three of four voters favored disallowing the use of “mobile speed enforcement vehicles and traffic law photo-monitoring devices.”
Although most of the general public wasn’t surprised with results, Police Chief Lane said he was when the Columbiana County Board of Elections announced them Tuesday.
As a taxpayer himself, he expressed shock that taxpayers chose the route of possible higher taxation to the traffic cameras in the first place over having wrongdoers themselves foot the bill.
However, Mark Hanni, who was one of the attorneys representing the citizens group along with Kevin Daley, sees it a little differently, having repeatedly calling the city’s use of the traffic cameras as the city’s attempt at “taxation without representation” and chiding the city for “trying to circumvent the will of the people.”
Attempts to contact East Liverpool Mayor Ryan Stovall, Safety-Service Director Brian Allen and Auditor Marilyn Bosco have been unsuccessful. However, Law Director Charles Payne revealed Thursday morning that all pertinent officials had been forwarded a copy of the decision and are discussing options of what (if any) action should come next.
Through a five-year contract with Blue Line Solutions, which the city’s Board of Control approved in March 2017, the city used its 60 percent of the traffic camera citation revenue to hire three additional police officers, purchase nine more vehicles and upgrade the police department computer system.
Police Chief Lane said that those three officers will not lose their jobs as three veteran police officers already have retired or left for other jobs earlier in the year.
The balance of the city’s share went into the general fund, according to previous media reports, although it has not been disclosed how it was spent.
The company’s cut is 40 percent, which covers the cost of the cameras and the overtime and any pertinent benefits for the officer operating the camera as part of the contract.
The ballot issue doesn’t affect nearby Liverpool Township’s ability to use traffic cameras.
Although the decision halted city officials’ ability to use the cameras for speed moving forward, Law Director Payne said the city will continue to enforce the tickets issued before the votes were certified Tuesday.
Opinions are still mixed on whether the city’s cameras improved safety or just were a money grab depending on whom one asks.
Police Chief Lane cites a drastic decline in the crashes on state Route 11 after the program was instituted. However, attorney Hanni points out that this decision doesn’t prohibit a police officer armed with a radar gun instead of a traffic camera from enforcing the law on site instead of an offender receiving a ticket in the snail mail a week after the alleged incident.
Although most of the sitting officials largely have been silent, Mayor-elect Greg Bricker believes the public spoke clearly and there is little need for further discussion. “The citizens of our community spoke. I will be sure to lead the city securely financially, ensuring we are not balancing the budget on the backs of our community members. We will need to consider other options to address the financial impact it will have on the city. It will be important to be transparent and accountable to the public,” he added. ”
Bricker also voiced his belief that it was his intention to not appeal the decision. “The voters have made their decision and it is time to move on. Cameras will no longer be in East Liverpool,” he concluded.