Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith this week suggested 15 school zones where cameras could be installed to catch speeding motorists.
Smith outlined the locations at a Tuesday night work session of the Hagerstown City Council, which last month voted to introduce an ordinance that would provide for the use of speed cameras.
The selected spots are those where police officers have observed or have received reports of speeding, Smith told the council. The goal is to improve safety for children as they travel to and from school for classes or school-related functions, he said.
Under Maryland law, a school zone is determined to be the area within a half-mile of the school's property, but Smith said the full distance wasn't necessary for enforcing speed limits.
He said the zones identified by police are not that large, but are sufficient to measure the speed of vehicles.
The five-member council in December 2011 approved the introduction of the proposed ordinance, which would allow the use of speed cameras in school zones. At that time, the council also approved a two-year contract with Hanover, Md.-based Brekford Corp. to install the units.
If the school zone ordinance is approved as presented, Smith said a traffic study would then be conducted to determine where police would place the cameras, which would function from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round.
The cameras would be calibrated for changes in speed limits, such as when the school zone lights are flashing at the beginning and end of school days, Smith said.
"I have a concern with stating that it's not a revenue generator and then having them operational when school isn't in session," Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said. "I know it's a good argument for special events, but the main concern that I heard from this council ... is the children's safety to and from school. I don't get phone calls during the summer."
Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said his main concerns with the proposed speed cameras are the length of time they would be used during the day, and their use in the summer and on holidays that fall between Monday and Friday.
"To me, that looks like a revenue generator," Bruchey said. "It doesn't look like you're looking at school safety for children."
Smith noted that playgrounds and athletic fields generally are used all summer.
Even though some people may view it as a revenue generator, Councilman Forrest W. Easton chose to focus on the fact that it would free up police officers from running radar and being stuck in court as a result of writing tickets.
Easton questioned why some people consider the issue to be such a negative, referring to the police plan to use the cameras to ticket motorists driving 12 mph or more over the speed limit in a school zone.
"That, to me, is just one other positive," he said.
Under the proposed ordinance, the city plans to set the fine for speeding in a school zone at $40. Motorists who pay within seven days would get a $5 discount, while those who did not pay within 30 days would be charged an additional $20.
If a police officer caught a motorist traveling 12 mph or more over the limit, the ticket likely would be more than $100 if not closer to $150 and would result in points on the motorist's license, Smith has said. Fines are paid to the state rather than the city if an officer issues a ticket.
Tickets issued resulting from the speed cameras would not be considered moving violations, so no points would be assessed against a driver's license and they would not be reported to insurance companies.
The additional revenue to the city could provide some general fund relief to taxpayers, Smith said.
The ordinance is scheduled to be introduced to the council at the next work session on Tuesday, Jan. 24, with a target approval date of Jan. 31.
Speed cameras have been proposed for the following school zones in Hagerstown:
- Northern Avenue within 200 yards of Fountaindale Elementary (901 Northern Ave.) and Northern Middle (701 Northern Ave.) 200 yards in each direction.
- Pennsylvania Avenue within 200 yards of Fountaindale Elementary or North Hagerstown High (1200 Pennsylvania Ave.) 200 yards in each direction.
- South Potomac Street within 200 yards of Bester Elementary (30 E. Memorial Blvd.).
- Memorial Boulevard for 200 yards east of Potomac Street.
- South Potomac Street within 200 yards in each direction of Emma K. Daub Elementary.
- Salem Avenue within 200 yards of Delaware Lane.
- Washington Avenue within 200 yards of Alexander Street.
- Franklin Street within 200 yards of Winter Street.
- Marshall Street within 200 yards in each direction of Western Heights (1300 Marshall St.) or the Marshall Street School 200 yards in each direction (1350 Marshall St.).
- Pangborn Boulevard within 200 yards of Pangborn Elementary (195 Pangborn Blvd.).
- Washington Street 200 yards west from Potomac Street.
- South Potomac Street 200 yards south of Washington Street.
- Oakridge Avenue within 200 yards in each direction of the Washington County Technical School (50 W. Oakridge) or at Antietam Academy