SALINEVILLE-At the Tuesday meeting of the Salineville village council, police Chief Terry McElroy presented the board with an intriguing solution to the town's problem with speeding motorist. McElroy told the council that he had met with a representative from a company called Optotraffic earlier that day about an automated speed enforcement device for the village.
Based in Maryland, Optotraffic is one of the largest speed enforcement companies in the United States, according to their website. The device itself is a box about two feet wide and three feet long with a boom that extends about 30 feet into the air, according to McElroy. McElroy told council that many larger cities such as Cleveland and Youngstown use the device.
McElroy reported to the council that he and the representative spoke about operating a laser radar system, called LIDAR, in certain areas around the village where speeding is a problem. Council members and the Chief agreed there are certain streets and roads in and around the village that seem to have particularly bad speeding problems, citing Maple Hill, Salineville Road West, and Water Street as well known for speeding traffic.
"I get a lot of speeding complaints," said McElroy. McElroy explained to council that out of any given number of cars that would pass by the device, a certain percentage would almost certainly be speeding. "Salineville would have 90% speeding," said councilmen Tom Hays, who appeared to be only partially joking.
As part of the procedure of installing the LIDAR device, Optotraffic posts signs advising drivers that their speed is being monitored. McElroy acknowledged that eventually motorists would catch on to the device and make it less effective. "It would do very well here for a while," said McElroy, adding that the village can opt out of the contract if operating the device stops being cost effective.
According to McElroy there is no cost to the village to obtain or operate a LIDAR device. McElroy stated that instead of issuing traffic tickets that count as points on one's driver's licence, violations recorded by the device would result in the driver being issued a civil forfeiture.
When fines are issued for speeding violations, Optotraffic will receive 40% and the village will receive 60% according to McElroy. However, if the speeder who is issued the ticket decides to contest the civil forfeiture the village must pay for a hearing officer to hear their case. Furthermore, if the speeder then contests the ruling of the hearing officer, the case continues to county municipal court where the village must pay a county prosecutor to prosecute the case.
Mayor Mary Smith asked McElroy if using the LIDAR system would require the village to operate a magistrate court, which the village has struggled to establish since Smith came into office. McElroy responded that the village would only need to employ a hearings officer and that a full magistrate court would not be necessary.
Council expressed a definite interest in the LIDAR device, and advised McElroy to seek more information. Head of the safety committee, Sally Keating, scheduled a meeting on the subject of speed enforcement devices for the village to be held on February 25 at 6:30 p.m.