Liberty, Girard to issue fines as speed camera warning period ends

By Sarah Lehr


Warning periods have ended for tickets issued as a result of cameras in Liberty and Girard, which means speeders can expect to see fines in the mail.

The grace period ended Sunday for drivers within the city of Girard and Aug. 1 for drivers within Liberty Township.

Officials cite safety concerns, complaints from residents about speeding and a need to free up police-department manpower as impetuses for the cameras.

“Knowing about the cameras, hopefully people will slow down and make Liberty a safer place to drive,” township Trustee Jodi Stoyak said.

During its warning period, Girard issued more than 2,200 citations, according to the police chief.

The civil citations carry fines, but do not count against a speeder’s driving record. People have the option to appeal the citation before a hearings administrator.

Local governments can end up receiving a greater portion of the fine revenue from these speed camera programs because they may avoid losing a substantial portion of the revenue to municipal court costs.

The civil citations carry a $100 fee for exceeding the speed limit by at least 11 miles per hour in Liberty or Girard, along with additional fines for speeding in a construction or school zone. Under Ohio law, the fees cannot exceed what court costs would have been for a noncivil speeding violation.

Because of 2014 Ohio legislation restricting the use of unmanned traffic cameras, a police officer must operate the types of cameras used in Liberty and Girard.

The officer, who uses a handheld device to snap a photo of a driver’s license plate, has discretion about whether to pull a driver over. If a driver exceeds a certain speed, he or she will later receive a citation in the mail.

Girard and Liberty have entered into contracts with private companies for the speed programs. The companies provide the cameras and are responsible for mailing the citations.

Under Girard’s contract with Blue Line Solutions of Athens, Tenn., the city receives 60 percent of fine revenue and the company receives the remaining 40 percent.

Blue Line Solutions also reimburses the police department for overtime pay, Police Chief Jeffrey Palmer said. Girard will distribute 70 percent of its fine revenue to the general fund and 30 percent to capital improvements for the police department.

Liberty’s contract with Optotraffic of Lanham, Md., allows the township to receive 65 percent of fine revenue, all of which will benefit the general fund. Township Trustee Jodi Stoyak said she’s hopeful the camera revenue will allow the township to eliminate its general fund deficit.

Local governments often use the general fund to subsidize other funds, such as police, fire or roads funds.

“We’re very anxious to get out of fiscal caution,” Stoyak said. “There’s a lot of projects in the township that have been neglected because of money.”

The city of Youngstown adopted its own speed camera program in 2015. Hubbard Township briefly pursued its own speed camera for use on Interstate 80, but suspended the program because of concerns about its legality under state law.

The township’s law director has advised officials that Ohio law restricts township police officers from enforcing traffic violations on interstate highways.

Liberty Township is using its camera on state Route 11, state Route 193, state Route 304 and a Shady Road school zone. Girard is concentrating its camera use on I-80 and U.S. Route 422.

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