Toledo would raise the civil penalty on motorists who get caught in the flash of an automated red-light and speeding camera from $95 to $120, and increase the city's take of that fee from 25 percent to 54 percent, under a proposed agreement reviewed yesterday by city council.
In addition, 12 new cameras would be installed around the city, up from the 30 cameras currently permitted.
The new agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., of Culver City, Calif., which operates the cameras, would generate an additional $2 million next year for the city, police Chief Michael Navarre said.
The chief presented the proposed new five-year agreement with Redflex to council yesterday, for a possible vote Tuesday.
Council has an incentive to act quickly: Redflex will implement the new fines as soon as the ordinance takes effect, rather than wait for the start of the contract on Jan. 1, 2008, the chief said.
He said the contract is favorable for the city and includes a "me-too" clause stating that if any city in Ohio executes a better agreement, it would apply as well to Toledo.
The additional revenue would make a major dent in the potential $10 million deficit next year, but the chief said that was not the intent.
"The job of the police department is to do enforcement and reduce accidents," Chief Navarre said. "If we increase revenue while we do that, that is a fortunate byproduct. It is certainly not our objective."
The proposed agreement appeared to have support on council at yesterday's agenda review meeting.
Councilman Rob Ludeman said he was a skeptic when the cameras were introduced in 2001, but was won over by the evidence of reduced accidents at camera intersections.
"What sold me was not so much the revenue source but making the intersections safer," he said.
Councilman Frank Szollosi said the proposed agreement is "good news for the budget," but bad news for traffic violators.
The new red-light fines would become the highest in the state, according to a comparison supplied by the chief.
Springfield has a $100 fine, while Columbus' is $95.
Toledo also would have the best percentage.
Springfield has a 50 percent share.
Redflex issues an administrative civil penalty, not a criminal fine. Unlike a criminal infraction, points are not assessed against a motorist's license and there is no report of a violation to an insurance company. The cameras are installed and serviced by Redflex at its own expense, the chief said.
Toledo's fine for speeding when stopped by a police officer is $113 when the speed is less than 21 mph over the speed limit or less than 16 mph over the limit in a school zone, and $133 for speeds more than 20 mph above the speed limit.
The fine for going through a red light is $103.
The chief said those fines will soon be recommended for increases as well to keep them comparable with the Redflex fee.
Also yesterday, the chief said Redflex will install two cameras at Glendale and South Detroit avenues in South Toledo.
In addition to the 12 new cameras, the agreement would double the number of cameras used for speed enforcement from seven to 14.
Chief Navarre said the contract with Redflex began in 2001 with the city getting 10 percent of the $75 fee. The city's share increased in 2003 to 25 percent and the fines increased to $95.
Toledo is moving ahead with the expansion of the program even as legal cases against the cameras move through the courts.
A closely watched case out of Akron now awaiting a ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether municipalities exceed their constitutional authority by imposing civil fines for what amounts to criminal conduct.
Perrysburg attorney Marshall Wisniewski is seeking class-action status in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for a case in which he represents a Toledo man who is challenging the constitutionality of Toledo's enforcement program.
He contends violators are presumed guilty and denied their due-process rights, a question not covered in the case in front of the Supreme Court.
He said the situation also creates the potential that the evidence presented at administrative hearings where appeals are heard could be used to file a criminal speeding or red-light ticket.
"It's a wonderful revenue-generating event," Mr. Wisniewski said.
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