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Speed camera law in sight

Council ready to OK new ordinance

YOUNGSTOWN — City council is expected today to approve a new ordinance for speed cameras, which includes reducing the speed over the limit to get a civil citation, as Youngstown looks to have them in school zones sometime next year.

Blue Line Solutions, a Chatta-nooga, Tenn., company, finalized a deal with the city May 19 for unmanned speed cameras in 16 school zones. But because of supply-chain issues, the cameras are on back order. The pads and poles where the cameras will be located started being built two weeks ago.

Council’s finance committee on Monday recommended the legislative body approve the ordinance at its meeting today.

The new ordinance would replace the current speed-camera law that is in place, but not enforced. That law was established when the city’s police department used hand-held speed cameras, almost exclusively on Interstate 680 between South Avenue and Meridian Road, from August 2015 until November 2019.

The most significant change in the proposed new law is the penalties for speeding, police Chief Carl Davis said.

The speed limit for school zones when lights are flashing is 20 mph while the limit was 50 mph on the section of I-680 where the police used the cameras. That’s why the threshold was reduced, Davis said.

Under the new law, those going at least 6 mph over the speed limit and up to 14 mph over it would face a civil penalty of $100. Those going 15 to 20 mph over the limit would face a $125 penalty and those traveling faster than 20 mph over the limit face a $150 penalty. They would not get points on their driving record for the civil citations.

The current law has civil penalties of $100 for driving at least 11 mph over the speed limit, $125 for 12 to 19 mph over the limit and $150 for those driving at least 20 mph over the limit. Also, motorists currently don’t get points on their driving record for citations.

A study in April 2021 by Blue Line showed over a five-day period that 21.3 percent of motorists monitored in school zones traveled at least 11 mph over the speed limit.

“We were surprised at how fast people were driving through school zones,” Davis said.

Law Director Jeff Limbian said the only other changes being made with the new ordinance are gender-neutral language, fixing some grammatical mistakes in the current law and making changes to a few of the definitions of words.

Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, asked if it could have been amended rather than repealed and replaced. Limbian said that could have been done, but it wasn’t because “it ended up being a lot of verbiage, but not a lot of substance,” and the new ordinance will “mirror more the state statute.”

The city would get 65 percent of the money collected from speed citations with Blue Line receiving the remaining 35 percent.

When the state Legislature in 2019 changed the law that reduced a community’s Local Government Fund allocation by the amount it collected in speed camera penalties, Youngstown got rid of them.

But the law permits money collected from citations in school zones to not count toward reductions in LGF. Those fees can be used only for school safety resources, such as improvements to school zones and crosswalks near those buildings, under state law.

The city ended the police speed-camera program because the money collected was exclusively for police equipment purchases and to pay for officers on that duty, who did so on overtime at time and a half. LGF money goes into the city’s general fund and can be used to fund several departments.

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