Elmwood Place speed cameras generating huge profit - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Speed cameras generate nearly half a million dollars

Posted: Updated: Dec 6, 2012 06:18 AM
ELMWOOD PLACE, OH (FOX19) -

A FOX19 investigation reveals how much money a controversial speed camera program has generated for a local village, and where that money could be headed.

According to Elmwood Place officials, the speed camera program has brought in $470,000 so far. That amount equals nearly half of the village's projected general fund budget for next year.

Optotraffic retains 40 percent of the total profits.

"To us that is a big chunk of money," Jerald Robertson said.

The village's secretary says currently most of the money generated by the speed cameras is sitting in the bank, waiting to be budgeted for 2013.

"I think [council is] going to be prudent and sit on it for a while and really make an educated decision on what to do with the money," Police Chief William Peskin said.

"I think my fellow council people are sensible people," argued Robertson. "I don't think they're going to do anything wild."

The village secretary tells FOX19 $50,000 of the nearly half a million dollars has been put in this year's public safety budget, but no one at the village was able to clarify why the money was reappropriated.

"I'm not sure because nothing's been added to this point to my budget," Peskin told FOX19 following a citation hearing.

"I haven't been given the figures and hopefully by this meeting next Tuesday night those figures will be available," Robertson said.

Robertson wrote up a list of proposed uses for the funds including saving most of it, paying off a significant loan, updating the town hall's heating and air conditioning, and even passing it on to village employees.

"Perhaps give some of our salaries a raise which they haven't had in years," Robertson offered Wednesday.

According to village documents obtained by FOX19, the village mayor makes just under $7,000 a year. The Fire Chief makes $9.50 an hour based on a 2000 ordinance. The village Police Chief makes a $41,600 base salary and has not had a raise since 2006. 

Chief Peskin says he would like to see the village purchase two new cruisers with the money, add on another full-time officer since he is currently the only one, and hire three new part-time positions.

While Robertson is in favor of raises, he is not convinced the village needs to take on new employees

"I question the wisdom of that because in two years that money will be gone in salary and we'll be right back where we were," he argued.

Robertson wants to make tangible purchases with the speed camera funds.

"I think to have something positive to show for it," Robertson said. "When we go out and buy equipment we need we can say ‘look there it is'. We have something to show for our money."

"People are not happy that they're going to be giving up their money so no matter how we spend it it's not going to make a difference to them I don't believe," Peskin said.

"These funds can put us in a reasonably decent financial situation for the next few years unless we go out and blow it on a bunch of stuff that we have nothing in hand when the dust settles," Robertson said.

Peskin says these days only about one percent of cars moving through the village are going fast enough to get a ticket, which means the cameras' cash flow could be drying up.

"This is not the never-ending piggy bank that everybody believes it to be," Peskin said.

FOX19 also spoke with council woman Claudia Wiles. Wiles says she would like to see the money help give a facelift to the Vine Street business district and update the local parks, among other investments.  

The next village council meeting is slated for next Tuesday night.

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