Traffic cameras will be in school zones by the fall semester

By David Skolnick


About four years after it first was discussed, city council will consider an ordinance Wednesday to establish laws on traffic cameras.

The cameras, about 10 in all, will be installed in school areas this summer, and be up and running by the start of the fall semester, said Anthony Donofrio, the city’s deputy law director who worked with Police Chief Rod Foley on the cameras issue.

The ordinance doesn’t restrict traffic cameras from being used throughout the city, but Donofrio said city council members are committed to using them only in school zones.

“The ordinance is open if they want to expand it” in the future, “but they only want it in school zones,” he said.

The city first started talking about traffic cameras in school zones in 2009. In September 2012, three companies submitted proposals to install and monitor the cameras; city council decided in January to go with Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix.

Redflex will keep about 30 percent of the money collected from those caught speeding or other vehicular infractions in school zones, Donofrio said.

City officials say this isn’t a money grab, but an effort to keep speeds down in school zones.

The cameras will be used only when school is in session, Donofrio said.

The proposed traffic- camera law would require the city to initially put up signs in “conspicuous location[s]” informing motorists that the cameras are going there, the ordinance reads. Then, there would be a 30-day grace period in which warning letters would be sent to violators before the city started ticketing.

Those caught on camera would be charged with civil violations so it doesn’t impact their driver’s license or registration, Donofrio said.

When students come to and leave schools, the speed limit is 20 mph in school zones.

Those caught by the cameras driving about 10 mph over the limit likely will not be charged, but that’s up to the police department, Donofrio said.

The new law, if approved by council, calls for a $100 penalty for going up to 13 mph over the speed limit, $125 for those driving 14 to 19 mph over the limit, and $150 for those going 20 mph over the limit. Also, non-speed-based violations are $100.

There are late penalties, too. If a fine isn’t paid in 30 days, $20 is added. It goes to $40 60 days after getting a ticket, and to $60 if it’s unpaid after 90 days. The fine and penalty go to a collection agency after 90 days, and could impact people’s credit scores, Donofrio said.

The city likely will hire a retired officer to review the data and video produced by the traffic cameras to determine who will be cited under the new law, Donofrio said. Those who want to contest the fine would have appeals heard by a local attorney to be hired by the city for that responsibility, he said.

Also Wednesday, council will consider legislation to pay $49,515.64 to HCC Public Risk Claim Service Inc., the city’s liability-insurance company, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., for legal fees related to a lawsuit filed by a former city employee.

Former street- department worker Keith Lawrence unsuccessfully sued the city claiming racial discrimination and workers’ compensation retaliation.

The city fired Lawrence — hired in 2006 at the request of then-Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st — in late 2006 or early 2007 after it was discovered by Sean McKinney, the city’s buildings and grounds commissioner, that Lawrence had his driver’s license suspended Dec. 10, 2006, for refusing to take a breath test for suspected driving under the influence while a probationary employee, according to a Dec.20, 2012, decision from the 7th District Court of Appeals.

That court had ruled in favor of the city, but Lawrence’s attorney successfully appealed to the state Supreme Court, which instructed the 7th District Court to review its decision. The court of appeals again supported the city’s right to fire Lawrence in the Dec. 20, 2012, decision.

But HCC Public Risk requires the city to hire outside legal counsel — in this case it was Neil Schor of Manchester, Bennett, Powers & Ullman of Youngstown — on workers’ compensation cases. The city’s deductible is $50,000, so it is paying Schor’s $49,515.64 bill in full to HCC, which will then pay the law firm.

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