Officials with school zone traffic camera company RedSpeed will have to wait a little longer than they hoped before installing their devices around local public schools.
A representative from the Florida-based company and Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord addressed the Baldwin County Board of Education during Monday’s work session to brief members and school officials on how the camera and penalty system for school zone speeding offenders would operate. The elected representatives seemed on board with the notion, but are awaiting feedback from the board attorney before giving their blessing.
Chief Swicord shared a lot of information he had previously presented to the Milledgeville City Council in April before Council approved a local ordinance for implementation in May. Those caught speeding 11 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit in school zones by the RedSpeed cameras would be subject to a $75 fine on a first offense. If a second offense is committed in one year’s time the fine is $125. The chief stressed that such fines would strictly be “civil penalties” and would not go against the vehicle owner’s insurance or driving record, similar to a parking ticket. According to figures given at the meeting, 65 percent of the money paid by offenders goes to MPD while RedSpeed gets the remaining 35 percent. The first 30 days after implementation will serve as a warning period. Notices will be sent via mail to the registered address of the owner of the offending vehicle to notify them their vehicle was caught speeding on camera.
“Do I think it will be effective? I certainly do,” Swicord said of the RedSpeed system.
The areas designated as school zones in the Baldwin County School District that lie within city limits are Ga. Highway 49 in front of Baldwin High School and Blandy Road where Lakeview Primary, Midway Hills Primary and Oak Hill Middle School are all situated. Lakeview Academy and the Early Learning Center lie within the school district’s complex on ABC Street, which has not been identified as an area of need for the speeding surveillance system. The other exception is Midway Hills Academy, which lies out on Highway 441 in the southern portion of the county. It is outside city limits, so RedSpeed would need the support of the Baldwin County Commission to place cameras in the unincorporated area.
The RedSpeed representative told the BOE that 18 school systems have signed on so far, and in previous cases, the number of speeders has dropped by 50 percent after the 30-day warning period. In a traffic study carried out by RedSpeed in April, a monitoring device recorded 494 drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 11 mph in the school zone in front of Baldwin High. The study was done over a nine-hour period on a school day.
When the time came for the school board to vote on whether or not to give its blessing to the RedSpeed operation, School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price passed along some advice from the board’s attorney.
“She is advising us to have a memorandum of understanding in place first before approving the application and the permit,” said Price. “She also wanted some more time to do some research since this is a very new initiative.”
BOE gets update on city stormwater fee
When the school district learned that it would be facing a $4,000 a month fee for stormwater system maintenance from the city, school officials requested a sit-down with city officials.
The city recently imposed a stormwater management fee on its water customers, of which the Baldwin County School District is one, based on the amount of property owners’ water runoff into the city system. The fee comes to about $4 a month for most single-family residential properties, but the school district was faced with the much larger figure of $4,000 per billing cycle. BCSD maintenance director Bruce Knighton and other school system higher-ups contend that number should be significantly lower.
“We explained to them that we’re in a different situation than most anyone else in the city because we handle our own stormwater all the way to a natural resource,” Knighton told the BOE Tuesday.
He added that the school system is requesting a 75 to 80 percent discount from the stated fee.
Wes Cummings, BOE District 5, attended the meeting with the city and said Tuesday he felt encouraged that the school system could get a positive result.
“It was a favorable meeting,” he shared with his fellow board members. “I don’t think we’re going to get away with zero fee, but I think we can get it significantly down from what it started at.”
Price said she would keep in communication with the city and update the board when a final decision is made.