Friday, April 22, 2011

Forest Heights Sued County To Get Speed Camera Site, Tried Lowering Speed Limit

The town of Forest Heights apparently needed to sue Prince George's County for permission to deploy speed cameras on county roads within the town.  According to the court record (case number CAL1023988 which can be seen at http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us) shows that the case was filed in July 2010 and was settled on 1/11/2011.

The town and the county ultimately signed a "Memorandum Of Understanding" with the county to resolve the dispute.  Legislation had been passed by the 2010 General Assembly which essentially REQUIRED Prince George's County to permit the use of speed cameras on county roads (read bill), meaning that the County had no choice but to grant permission for the speed camera.

In this instance however the County might have had a fair complaint over the Town's use of speed cameras, as Forest Heights had previously passed legislation which lowered the speed limit on Livingston Road by 5mph and created a new school zone on the road.  Local governments typically must obtain permission from county governments before changing speed limits on county roads.  An ordinance passed this year by Forest Heights, affirming the Memorandum of Understanding and undo-ing the change in the speed limit by the town, documents the situation:
"WHEREAS, Resolution 43-09 further stated for the school zone established on “…Livingston Road eastbound and westbound 50 feet east of Comanche Drive to State Highway 210 (Indian Head Highway), speed set at 25 miles per hour…” despite the fact that the posted speed limit is currently 30 miles per hour; and
WHEREAS, on November 24, 2010, the County’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety and Director of Homeland Security delivered a letter to the Mayor, conditionally approving the Town’s request to use a speed monitoring system on Livingston Road; and
WHEREAS, the condition stated in said approval letter required the Town and the County to enter into an agreement whereby the Town may deploy its speed cameras on Livingston Road subject to certain reasonable limitations to allow the County to efficiently manage and maintain the roadway; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council approved a “Memorandum of Understanding Speed Monitoring Systems Agreement” with the County on January 3, 2011; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council finds that it is in the best interest of the Town and the travelling public to retain the current 30 mph posted speed limit on Livingston Road.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town Council approves and authorizes the use and deployment of speed cameras on Livingston Road pursuant to the memorandum of understanding entitled “Memorandum of Understanding Speed Monitoring Systems Agreement” approved by the Council on January 3, 2011; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Resolution 43-09 shall be amended to retain the current 30 miles per hour speed limit as it currently exists on Livingston Road;
"

There are no schools located on Livingston Road in Forest Heights.  The new school zone was apparently first marked in 2011 at almost the same time the new cameras on that road went online.

Forest Heights has written $2.8million worth of speed camera revenue into their FY11 budget, more than half of the town's budget for the year and more than their entire FY10 budget.  This equates to more than $1000 in ticket revenue per resident of the town, or about 25 tickets per residents, although the majority of tickets are likely going to out of town residents.  The small town has a history of interesting political drama, with the past three mayors all having been suspended or removed from office over various misconduct charges.