Speed limits continue to be a topic of conversation in the Village of Walbridge as officials work to maintain public safety yet avoid the perception of the municipality becoming a speed trap.
Village council’s safety committee last week presented recommendations to the full council to set limits of 35 miles per hour on North Main Street between Elm Street and the village northern boundary line with the City of Northwood and on South Main from a CSX rail crossing to Harlan Drive.
The speed limits are now 25 miles per hour.
An ordinance would first have to be drafted and approved to implement the changes, Brian Ballenger, village solicitor, advised council.
In his November newsletter to the community, Mayor Dan Wilczynski said a recent decision to lower limits from 35 to 25 miles per hour in some areas of the village was done to comply with state law.
“How the speeds were increased in the past over the requirements of the state I do not know,” the mayor writes. “What is important is that we abide by the laws that are in place.”
The mayor also notes the village is working with Lake Township to make the speed limits on roads abutting both jurisdictions more compatible. Walbridge Road as it enters the village from the east is a good example where cooperation is needed. On the west-bound lane into the village from the I-280 overpass the limit drops to 25 miles per hour at the village line. The portion of the east-bound lane in the township has a limit of 55 miles per hour.
The township trustees this summer sent a letter to the village administration asking the village police department to not post a radar patrol car at the township fire department on Walbridge Road.
For Cecil Adkins, a former member of Walbridge council and a business owner in the village, the image of Walbridge as a speed trap is coming into sharper focus.
“What’s needed is for council to adopt a common sense approach and have a 35 mile per hour limit throughout the village’s main streets,” he said. “I’m hearing more and more complaints about the village speed limits, especially from other businesses.”
Adkins retained an attorney to review the Ohio Revised Code as it pertains to the village’s posting of 25 mile per hour limits. A letter from the attorney to the village administration questions whether a 25 mile per hour limit is the proper limit for Main Street and Walbridge Road as they enter the village.
Adkins last week said he hasn’t received a reply from the village.
He’s also pored over a list of the traffic tickets issued by the village police department in 2011 and 2012 and found that many of the speeding tickets were for offenses of driving slightly more than 35 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.
“It’s pretty obvious the drivers think they are still on 35 mile an hour limits,” he said. “I have to wonder if this is being used to build up fines in mayor’s court.”
A bill pending in the state legislature that would increase from 100 to 1,000 or more the minimum population required for a municipality to hold a mayor’s court indicates those courts are a throwback to a bygone era, Adkins says.
Ohio and Louisiana are the only states operating mayor’s courts, according to data compiled by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Mayor Wilczynski said there have been other benefits to a rigorous traffic enforcement effort by the village police department. Some motorists who’ve been stopped for traffic offenses have had outstanding arrest warrants from other jurisdictions for unrelated offenses, he writes in the newsletter.
“For this reason I say, ‘Hats off to the PD and keep up the good work.’”