State bills could affect school camera plans

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council held a first reading for ordinance amendments that will regulate the planned school-zone speed cameras.

The city approved an agreement with RedSpeed USA in August, which will provide speed ticketing cameras for all school zones within the city. RedSpeed will receive a portion of the fines resulting from tickets issued through the cameras in exchange for their installation and upkeep.

The cameras also use the Flock camera technology, so with nine schools in LaGrange the agreement will provide 18 more Flock cameras at no cost to the city. The cameras would otherwise cost the city about $63,000 and an additional $6,000 annually.

Police Chief Garrett Fiveash has said the cameras will only issue tickets to motorists in school zones and only to drivers going at least 15 MPH over the posted speed limit. The tickets will also only be issued for violations during school zone hours before and after school.

The process will not be entirely automated. An officer will review all tickets before they are mailed out.

City Manager Patrick Bowie explained that the amendment will specify the signage that will be required as motorists approach the school zone, requires calibration of the cameras, requires that the cameras have to be in place for 30 days with warnings only before issuing citations and provides for a dispute process so motorists can challenge the tickets in court.

It also establishes the fees for the citation at $75 for the first offense and $125 for the second and subsequent offenses, with a $25 maximum processing fee, Bowie said.

City Attorney Jeff Todd said two bills are currently being considered by the state.

“One would prevent the program together. The other one changes the regulations somewhat. But I think in a lot of ways, the way [Chief Garrett Fiveash] has proposed doing this, it already conforms to much of that new bill,” Todd said.

Councilman Mark Mitchell voiced doubts that the first bill, HB 1126, would pass.

The bill would repeal all laws relative to the enforcement of speeding via cameras in school zones and prohibit local law enforcement from implementing speed cameras as well as prohibit enforcement of speeding via cameras in school zones.

Another bill proposed would regulate speed cameras, so they have consistency throughout the state.

“It restricts the time they can operate. Ours will only be in operation an hour and an hour after school. I think some cities around the state were using these cameras 24 hours a day,” Bowie said.

Bowie later clarified that the ticketing would only occur for an hour before and after school. The tag reader aspect of the cameras will be in operation 24-7.