Speeding enforcement causing rift in Knox Borough
By Amy A. Thompson, Clarion News writer
KNOX – Speeding motorists along South Main Street in Knox have led to a rift between the borough, Beaver Township and Magisterial District Judge Amy Long.
Knox Borough Council President Jack Bish said speeding issues began along South Main Street after the opening of the new Sharp Shopper store in Beaver Township .
Bish explained traffic has quadrupled along the road and the speeding has been excessive among travelers with some vehicles being clocked at 45 mph or higher in the 25 mph zone.
Bish said he has heard the terms “speed trap” and “moneymaker” being used, but he wants to clear up any misconceptions about what Knox Borough Police Chief Stephen Bilunka does.
“Our chief follows the instructions of the council and does not randomly stop people – only those breaking the law,” Bish said in a letter on behalf of council.
The letter also went on to cite council’s concern over fast moving traffic in areas in which children play.
The letter was meant to publicly reaffirm council’s commitment to maintain speed patrols and will be sent to Beaver Township supervisors.
Council members fear that the same commitment is not being made in Beaver Township .
According to Bish, when Beaver Township supervisors Dennis Cochran, Gerald Whitling and Tom Butler were confronted by constituents who were angry about receiving speeding tickets, the supervisors allegedly removed the speed limit signs which belong to the borough.
“They ( Beaver Township supervisors) run scared when someone complains to them,” Bish said.
Beaver Township Supervisor Gerald Whitling said he did not remove the speed limit signs but his fellow supervisors did.
Whitling said the borough can have signs which indicate what the speed limit is ahead without the township’s permission, but cannot dictate what the speed limit is on the township’s portion of the road. The road, like a couple of others, is shared by the borough and township.
The borough owns the signs but the signs were located on the township’s side of the road for a long time, Bish explained.
Supervisor Cochran said the signs have been up since last summer or maybe early fall and the township had a problem with them then.
“To me, it’s not a new issue,” Cochran said.
Cochran said the township had its legal counsel, Kent Pope, send a letter to the borough asking them to remove the speed limit signs last summer but the borough did not do so.
“Sharp Shopper had nothing to do with it,” Cochran said.
Cochran said he believes 35 mph would probably be more appropriate speed on the Beaver Township side.
Cochran said he and Butler had researched the issue with Pope and he believes they were within their legal right to remove the signs.
In addition, Cochran said, the township kept receiving complaints from citizens after some had received speeding tickets.
“I just had enough of it,” Cochran said.
When supervisors removed the signs Magisterial District Judge Amy Long ( 18-03-03 ) allegedly dismissed some of the speeding tickets because the area was not properly posted.
Long told the Clarion News she does not know where the line is and borough police cannot stop someone in Beaver Township for speeding.
Knox Borough’s legal counsel John Marshall explained at a previous council meeting that belief isn’t exactly true. Marshall explained to a couple in March that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed a statute which permits police to travel outside the bounds of their jurisdiction when they are in “hot pursuit,” so if an offense happens in the borough police can pull someone over in another jurisdiction.
“I was told by township supervisors that they ( Beaver Township ) own half the road,” Long said.
The whole issue has led some council members to distrust Long.
Bish said there have been other ordinance violations brought before Long and she has thrown out some of those cases as well. Bish said council recognizes some of its ordinances need to be revised. Council is not above rewriting each of its ordinances so there will be no question when something is in violation, Bish said.
Bish is worried that Long has been more concerned with being re-elected as magisterial district judge than imposing any punishment for code and law violations.
“Maybe she’s tired of being district justice,” said Knox Borough Council member Tom Goble.
But Long contends “most people are found guilty of speeding” and there haven’t been very many speeding tickets in that area for that reason.
In addition, Long said any deals are worked out between police and defendants before she hears of the case. As for the decision on what the speed limit should be, Long said she is waiting for the two municipalities to work it out.
Long said it is her job to decide if someone is or isn’t guilty of speeding.
“I can’t get in the middle of it,” Long said.
But Knox Borough Council is worried if an agreement can be reached.
“If we (Knox Borough and Beaver Township ) can’t come to an understanding over a speeding issue then as far as I’m concerned they can build their ( Beaver Township ) own sewage plant,” Bish said.