Rogers council moves ahead with speed trap
ROGERS – Village Council is proceeding with plans to install speed-monitoring units in the village but will first seek bids from interested companies.
Council voted at Tuesday’s special meeting to seek competitive bids after village Solicitor Michelle Simonelli recommended they do so instead of contracting outright with Optotraffic LLC. “You are obligated to get the best deal you can,” she explained.
Simonelli based her recommendation on conversations she had on the bidding process with an attorney for the state auditor’s office. State law requires formal bids be sought for any contracts in excess of $50,000, unless it is for professional services or an emergency. Under the proposed agreement with Optotraffic, the company would provide and operate the automated machines that catch speeding motorists using laser radar and cameras. In exchange, Optotraffic would be paid 40 percent of the fine money collected by the village.
Simonelli was concerned the village could run afoul of the bidding law if the amount being paid Optotraffic exceeded $50,000 per year, which was possible given the fact a village of 2,000 in southern Ohio received $800,000 in fine money the first six months the Optotraffic system was in operation.
Simonelli said the state attorney told her that while there are exceptions, competitive bids are “probably” required in this instance.
“We’re not buying them,” countered Councilman Mark Gordon, but Simonelli indicated that was made clear to the state attorney before he gave her his opinion.
Optotraffic’s representatives had told council the week before they have never before been required to go through the bidding process in Ohio or elsewhere, except when the community purchased the equipment directly from the company and operated it themselves.
Councilman Mike Hunt said he spoke with Optotraffic, and they told him the company would be willing to contract with the village to operate the system as a pilot program for $49,500 per year – $500 under the bid requirement. Simonelli found this unacceptable, saying “I can tell you no one’s going to be fooled by that.”
After considerable discussion, council authorized Simonelli by 4-0 vote (with Jerry Hoon absent) to prepare the bidding legislation. She estimated the entire process – from preparing advertisements to opening bids would take eight weeks, after which council can review the bids before acting.
Councilman Jane Balmenti said the sooner they get the speed cameras up and running, the quicker the cash-strapped village can begin reaping the financial benefits, but Simonelli said the chief reason is to slow traffic in the village.
“You shouldn’t look at this as a revenue source,” she said.
Gordon hopes that someday Rogers would become like Washingtonville, where its well-known reputation as a speed trap automatically slows most motorists. “I would love to be like Washingtonville. I think that would be great,” he said.
Simonelli said all of this will require much more work from her over the next several weeks and she asked to be compensated beyond her monthly salary of $150. Council adopted a resolution agreeing to provide her extra pay, with the exact dollar amount to be determined later.