Girard adjusts camera penalties to meet demands of new law
By Samantha Phillips
Girard council on Monday approved increases for speed camera penalties to adjust for costs that the city will incur when a new state law takes effect July 3. Under the new law, cities and townships will be required to file certified copies of speed camera tickets issued to drivers with the court of jurisdiction. Girard will file the copies with the Girard Municipal Court and the city must pay the court costs for the court hearings.
Speed camera ticket contests are heard before an administrative officer, but starting Wednesday they must be heard in court. Even if the court sides with the city, the city still incurs the court costs.
To offset those costs, plus costs that will stem from increased work hours for court staff, the city’s law director proposed a tiered penalty system that is similar to what some other communities enforce.
Before, a speed camera citation cost $100 or $150 in a construction zone. Now, drivers who are issued speed camera citations for driving 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit will be fined $125; 16 to 25 miles over the speed limit will be fined $135 and 26 miles over the speed limit or in a construction zone will be fined $150.
“You can’t put a price on safety,” said Brian Kren, law director.
Service Director Jerry Lambert said the city issues about 1,500 to 2,000 tickets a month. Drivers paid about $1.9 million in speed camera fines in 2018, according to city records.
Mayor James Melfi lamented this legislation, along with another bill pending state Senate approval that proposes that cutting more local government funding from cities that use speed cameras.
Kren said the increased costs also account for the fact that the city will lose funds from this bill.
“Obviously the Legislature took those actions to curtail some communities,” Melfi said. “We are going forward with the program. It just seems to be that the Legislature contains membership that doesn’t really understand how cities and local governments operate. ... Their goal was always to take local government funding away. In Girard alone, they have taken 50 percent of our local funding away for nine years. What does that equate to? In just Girard, that equates to well over a million dollars. ... It’s nearly childish on their part.”
Melfi said the money generated from the speed camera funds have gone toward increasing the amount of roads that are being paved and improvements to the police department.