Northwood has funded numerous safety enhancement projects with revenue collected from automated photo speed and red light enforcement cameras installed at two intersections.
Since the cameras were installed in 2005, the city has collected a total of $989,699.18 in fines.
“There’s been a lot of good things done with this money,” said Police Chief Tom Cairl.
“We can’t protect every citizen 24-7,” said Mayor Mark Stoner. “But if you look at that list, I would think they would say, as a resident, I am better off having that red light camera because it makes the community safer.”
Among the safety improvements funded by the cameras: a safety study at Wales/Tracy roads, compensation earmarked for a police officer who had been scheduled to be laid off, construction of a continuous right turn lane at the Wales and Oregon roads intersection, a speed monitor trailer, diagnosis of inoperable tornado sirens, the purchase of two tornado sirens, court hearings for motorists appealing citations, stop signs, speed limit signs, replacement of police and fire dispatch consoles, software for the police and fire departments, radios, pagers, transfer of school lights from Lark Elementary (which closed) to Lemoyne Road, school zone sign repairs, traffic signal repairs, radio upgrades, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), and the construction of a new road salt dome.
Former Police Chief Gerald Herman said in 2005 that the cameras would act as a deterrent, changing motorists’ behavior, and improving safety. Revenue, he said, would diminish as a result.
Statistics released by Cairl confirm Herman’s prediction. Figures show a huge decrease in traffic camera revenue from 2005, when the city collected $279,597.74. In 2006, revenue dropped to $175,268.06, which Cairl attributes to fewer citations as the result of the construction of the continuous right turn lane from Wales onto Oregon Road. The revenue continued spiraling down to $65,186.09 in 2007, $48,455.42 in 2008, and $36,508.72 in 2009. But in 2010, revenue climbs to $63,220, then $160,013 in 2011, and $161,452.13 in 2012.
The increase in revenue after 2009, said Cairl, is due to technology made available that year that enabled the camera to enforce the 20 mph speed limit in the school zone at the Woodville and Lemoyne roads intersection.
“When we got the capability, and the technology came of age, we were able to enforce the school zone times,” he said. The 20 mph speed limit ran from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. during the week. The speed limit at that intersection the rest of the day is 35 mph.
Cairl said he was able to get council’s approval to purchase another set of blinking yellow lights to get motorists to comply with the 20 mph speed limit.
“I was trying to educate people that there are two sets of lights blinking at you as you’re coming into a school zone. Please slow down to 20 mph,” said Cairl. Camera revenue was used to purchase the lights.
“We still get people who want to fly through there. You can’t stop in time if you’re driving faster than 20 mph and a kid walks out in traffic. We just thought it was in the best interests of the children to start enforcing it. That’s why the revenue started going up in 2010: technology came of age and we could enforce the speed limit for the school zone.”
Without the camera revenue, the city would not have been able to fund most of those projects, said Stoner.
“There’s only so much money in this economy,” he said. “You can go looking for it in the general fund, but sooner or later, that well runs dry, too.”