City approves speed cameras in school zones

Drivers caught exceeding the limit would get $40 ticket

by Andrea Noble | Staff Writer
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Leah L. Jones/The Star

Don Beach warns drivers to slow down in front of Bowie High School on Tuesday morning. Beach, a Bowie resident whose grandson attends the high school, and several others gathered at the school to slow drivers and encourage students not to jaywalk.

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The Bowie City Council on Monday approved four Bowie school zones for the future installation of cameras designed to catch speeders.
The council voted unanimously for cameras to be placed on Route 197 in front of Rockledge Elementary School; on Northview Drive in front of Northview Elementary School; on Route 450 between Bowie High School and St. Pius X Elementary School; and on Race Track Road in front of Yorktown Elementary School.
The cameras would photograph the license plates of cars traveling at 12 mph or more over the speed limit between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays. Speeders would be mailed a $40 ticket, although the offense carries no points on a driver's license.
Dallas-based company ACS will provide the speed cameras at no cost to the city and will collect $16.25 from every $40 ticket, said Bowie Police Chief Katherine Perez. In the past, Bowie contracted with ACS for red light cameras, which are no longer in use, said City Manager David Deutsch.
City staff members are working to finalize a cooperative bid for ACS with Montgomery County on the four fixed-location cameras and at least one mobile camera that can be rotated to other school zones in which speeding might be a problem, Deutsch said. State law allows jurisdictions to place the cameras only in highway work zones and within a half-mile of a school.
Bowie wanted to piggyback on the bid with Montgomery County, which also operates speed cameras, to avoid having to go through a separate bidding process, Deutsch said.
He did not know how long the negotiation process would last, but added once it is complete the mobile camera could be installed within two weeks. Installing the fixed cameras could take between four and eight weeks, Perez said.
State law only limits counties and cities operating the cameras to collect an amount equal to 10 percent of the jurisdiction's annual operating budget in ticket revenue, and the revenue must be allotted for safety programs. The rest of the revenue will go to the state.
Based on Bowie's fiscal 2009 budget, which allots $44.6 million for general fund expenditures, the city could collect up to $4.6 million from the tickets. Perez did not have an estimate of how much actual revenue the city might expect to collect.
The city is required to post signs informing drivers of the camera locations and speed limit and to give drivers 30 days' notice that the cameras will be installed, Perez said. Council members who said they expect the cameras to significantly reduce speeding in the city, added that they want to ensure the city properly warns residents of the cameras.
"I want to publish this in every way possible," added Mayor G. Frederick Robinson.
Councilwoman Geraldine Valentino-Smith (At-large) questioned whether the city would bear additional costs by using the cameras and who would be responsible for their maintenance.
Officials of ACS would maintain the cameras, be responsible for collecting money from drivers who do not pay the tickets, and flagging license plates for cars with unpaid tickets, Perez said.
The only cost for the service to the city would be in the time spent by Bowie police officers, who would review all tickets before issuing a citation and would go to court if a ticket is disputed, Deutsch said.
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