2007-09-15 / News

Is Kirkersville a speed trap? Well, it depends…

By Scott Rawdon

KIRKERSVILLE- Pataskala resident William Cunningham felt the chill of seeing a police cruiser's flashing lights in his rear view mirror while heading out of Kirkersville on Outville Road. Thinking he was beyond the village's 35 miles per hour zone, he sped up toward 50 miles per hour. When he was stopped, the Kirkersville officertold him he was clocked at 56 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone, and Cunningham said he was required to attend Mayor's Court. "Is this a speed trap?" he asked.

Well, that depends upon one's definition of a speed trap. According to the American Automobile Association, a "speed trap" is a community whose local government budget relies heavily on revenue from speeding fines. The online dictionary, Wikipedia, says a "speed trap" can refer to a point where a speed limit is strictly enforced by police, or to locations where a speed camera is posted. According to Wikipedia, the term "speed trap" generally suggests speed limit enforcement for purposes of ticket revenue or traffic deterrence instead of safety.

Kirkersville Mayor Bennie Evans defines a speed trap as "entrapment," or intentionally deceiving motorists. "The fact is, it's 35 miles per hour. What's so hard about that?" he asked during Tuesday night's Kirkersville Village Council meeting (postponed from Sept. 5). "I don't think it's a speed trap." He said speed zones are clearly marked and have warning signs leading to them. Evans said he's even been stopped on Outville Road. He said revenue from speeding tickets is high because the Kirkersville police are out doing their jobs.

Resident and former council member Debi Seymour said she thinks, "$8,000 worth of tickets is too steep."

Council clerk Johnny Adkins said Wednesday that the total Kirkersville traffic violation revenue for August was $7172.70. He said $1,601.06 of that total went to the state.

"Entrapment is entrapment; that's not a speed trap," said Evans, adding that a driver was caught doing 92 miles per hour on Outville Road. He encouraged anyone who has complaints against the Kirkersville Police Department to send them directly to him in writing, and he'll address the issue.

A resident commented she sees Ohio State Highway Patrol cruisers - whose Licking County post is at Outville Road and Ohio 16 - and Licking County Sheriff's Officecruisers traveling quickly through Kirkersville. Evans said Kirkersville Police Chief Robert Chamberlain already discussed the issue with the highway patrol. Evans encouraged residents to write down the cruisers' ID number and report them if they're speeding through town unauthorized, or without their flashing lights activated.

Evans said the police make many arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under a suspended license via the traffic stops.

In other council news:

• Evans said that for now voter approval of a three mill replacement operating levy, which will be on the ballot in November is, in his opinion, a more important issue for the village than a proposed contract with the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District to provide the village with public water. Adkins said previously that the village's three mill operating levy was passed in the early 1980s and it expires at the end of this year. It's currently generating only $16,000 per year. A renewed levy would generate about $27,000 per year.

If it's not passed, said Evans, "people will be assessed to fixthe streets in front of their homes," simply because the village will have no appreciable income. If the levy is passed, residents would pay about $30 per year if their homes are worth $100,000. If their homes are worth $200,000, they would pay $60 per year, and so on.

"If we don't get the tax levy passed, nothing can be done," said Mike Cloud, Kirkersville street commissioner. He said the price of aluminum has increased three times since January. "You can't buy stop signs for $30," he said. Cloud added that the village purchased a chainsaw for about $350, not $400 or $500 as others have stated. The village appropriated more than was actually necessary for the chainsaw, said Cloud.

• Evans was clear that no deal has been signed yet with Southwest Licking water and sewer to bring public water into the village. Currently, the district is negotiating with the village to provide public water on a two phase plan. The first phase would supply water to the SR 158 corridor, which includes the Flying J Truck Stop, Phantom Fireworks, Kirkersville Elementary School, and several parcels proposed for development. The businesses and developers would pay for the majority of the phase one infrastructure.

Phase two would provide public water to the rest of the village, but that phase is on hold, said village engineer Gary Silcott of RD Zande & Associates, Inc., until the village administration is sure the majority of residents want public water. "Other than phase one, you'll petition us," he said.

Should the majority of residents decide they want public water, said Silcott, they will be permitted to use their current well for watering the lawn, washing the car, and the like, as long as it's not directly attached to the house, with the possible exception of one outside spigot. Otherwise, the well could only be accessed through a yard hydrant.

Council member Steve Piatt said any copies of the proposed contract with Southwest Licking water and sewer that may be circulating around the village are only draft contracts and subject to change. No contract is officialuntil it is signed by representatives of both the village and the water and sewer district. "It's still a draft until we sign off on it," he said.

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