Speed camera could come to town

Rick DeClue · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The city council neared a decision at its June 25 meeting on how to control speeders on Prairie Street during the Highway 6 bridge construction. Traffic volume increased on Prairie Street when the Iowa Department of Transportation placed a detour around the bridge.

Rather than take the suggested detour onto Interstate 80, many motorists have opted to use Prairie Street as a direct route into West Liberty from Iowa City. The increase in traffic has caused an increase in speeding violations.

Instead of installing a traditional speed camera on a pole or an overhead wire to curb the problem, Capt. Michael Meier presented the idea of buying, painting and outfitting a vehicle with a camera to match a West Liberty Police Department unit through Gatso.

According to the website, Gatso is an industry leader in speeding and red light enforcement. The business designs, manufactures, installs and operates speed cameras around the world.

The unit would be installed with Gatso's speed cameras. Due to its mobility police could position it in different areas along Prairie Street.

The program would not cost the city anything. Rather, Gatso would receive 30-35 percent of revenues from citations as payment.

Meier said the city’s officers had been spending more time on Prairie Street since the detour took affect. Previous to the meeting they have handed out eight speeding violations.

But excessive time spent monitoring traffic takes away from the department’s other activities, according to Meier, particularly when the school year starts in the fall.

It will take 60-90 days for the city to put the policies into place, set up required signage to warn motorists they are being monitored and secure the vehicle and camera.

City Manager Chris Ward said he expects the detour traffic to affect some activities for the 175th celebration, most noticeably the Tractor Parade.

In other news, the West Liberty City Council has agreed to use the State of Iowa’s Income Offset Program to help with collection of certain debts owed to the city.

This allows the state to collect unpaid debts from individuals by taking that money from their income tax refunds.

This offset can be used for a variety of debts. However, the city council is focused on two categories of collection backlogs – electric bills and ambulance services.

The city has $52,000 in delinquent electric bills on its books. The total was higher until accounts over five years old were written off. Too many older payments were from residents that had moved and could not be located.

City Clerk Missy Carter told the council that the offset program creates a better return for the city than referrals to collection agencies.

The offset program will also be used for $96,000 in uncollected ambulance fees accumulated since 2010.

Finally, West Liberty received positive news on the removal and disposal of a large and obsolete generator necessary for upgrading the city’s electricity production.

There had been an estimated $60,000 removal and disposal fee. But an agreement with the International Machinery Demolition company reduced the price. The company will cover the costs of removal in return for receiving 75 percent of the salvage value.
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