Traffic cameras will be in Youngstown school zones by fall

By David Skolnick


City council has agreed to place traffic cameras in school zones, but some of the lawmakers say they could be placed elsewhere in the future.

Council voted 7-0 Wednesday to establish laws on the cameras. About 10 will be installed in school areas this summer and be used around the start of the fall semester, primarily to catch those speeding when students come to and leave school buildings.

The ordinance, however, doesn’t restrict the devices from being used elsewhere. There are no immediate plans to move them to other locations, but that could happen at some point, some of the lawmakers said.

“I’m pleased they will be in school zones, but we can expand it in the future if we want,” said Councilman Nate Pinkard, D-3rd, safety committee chairman and retired Mill Creek Park Police Department chief.

But Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, safety-committee chairwoman, said if a decision is made to place them anywhere else, she’ll “be out there with petitions to make sure they don’t go further than school zones.”

Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, a safety-committee member who’s pushed for the cameras for nearly four years, said council doesn’t plan to expand beyond school zones, but added: “As we go through this process, we may have an area with a high rate of traffic accidents” where the cameras can be used for safety reasons.

Council members started talking about cameras in school zones in 2009, and finally selected Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix in January as the company to install them. The service is free, with Redflex keeping about 30 percent of the money collected.

The law carries stiff fines — $100 for driving up to 13 mph over the speed limit in school zones, $125 for driving 14 to 19 mph over the limit, and $150 for going 20 mph over the limit. Also, nonspeed-based violations are $100. If a fine isn’t paid in 30 days, $20 is added. It goes to $40 if unpaid after 60 days, and to $60 after 90 days.

Those caught on the camera — which will be turned on only when students are heading to school and leaving when the school day is done — would be charged with civil violations so it won’t impact their driver’s license or registration.

Also Wednesday, council approved a resolution allowing owners of the downtown Wick Building, vacant for about eight years, to receive a $770,000 state loan. Council’s approval was needed for the NYO Property Group, which owns the structure at 34 W. Federal St., as well as other downtown buildings, to receive the loan.

NYO plans to spend $16.5 million to convert the 103-year-old building into a 52-unit rental and extended-stay living facility. Inside demolition work must begin by Aug. 1 for NYO to keep $3,667,500 in federal and state tax credits for the project. The company plans to get started next month.

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