Speed camera revenue could boost Hagerstown police, fire departments

December 04, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown City Council will vote later this month to add more staff to its police and fire departments as a result of the incoming revenues from the city’s speed camera program.

Since the speed cameras in various school zones around Hagerstown went live in April, paid tickets through October have generated a net revenue of nearly $540,000 for the city, according to Capt. Mark Holtzman, Hagerstown’s acting police chief.

Capturing approximately 200 violations per day, the cameras have brought in $215,840 last fiscal year — from mid-April through June 30 — then another $324,007 through October of the current fiscal year, which began July 1, Holtzman told the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday.

Holtzman requested that some revenues from the Safe Speed for Students Program — with 11 cameras currently in operation at 10 of 13 approved locations — be used to hire an additional police officer and purchase an accompanying vehicle dedicated to operating the system at an approximate cost of $129,000.

Maryland law requires speed camera programs to be operated by sworn police personnel. Adding a new position to the police force for this purpose once the program was fully functional was discussed as a future need earlier this year, Holtzman said.

Since it began, the program has been operated by other police officers and required overtime — funded through the speed camera fund — to keep the system calibrated and operating correctly.

“We’ve been slowly having to increase the number of hours that the officers have been working,” Holtzman told the five-member city council, estimating that it would cost about $92,000 a year in overtime to operate the system.

Holtzman said this new officer would be responsible for approving the citations as they come through wirelessly from his or her patrol car, and would also assist as needed in other police operations as needed, specifically around the downtown area.

The cost of purchasing and outfitting a marked vehicle is about $42,000 and hiring a new officer with a benefits package would cost approximately $87,000 annually, he said.

“It’s a way to add another officer downtown without burdening the taxpayers directly,” he said.

Additionally, Hagerstown fire officials asked the city council to use speed camera funds, which are intended to be used solely for public and pedestrian safety, to reinstate three fire captain positions to help supply sufficient command staff on all shifts.

The fire department has been operating with eight unfunded vacancies for the past two years, including a deputy chief and a public fire educator in addition to the three captains.

The promotion of three individuals to fire captain and the subsequent backfilling of apparatus operators and firefighters is expected to cost approximately $280,000, according to a memo to the council from Fire Chief W. Kyd Dieterich.

Both requests were supported by council members, and they will appear on the city council’s Dec. 18 agenda for formal approval.

The speed cameras issue $40 tickets to motorists traveling 12 mph or more above the posted speed limit. The fines are reduced to $35 if paid within 10 days of the citation being mailed.

The cameras operate year-round, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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