IW proposing speed camera agreement to Smithfield, Windsor

Published 4:19 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Isle of Wight County is proposing an agreement with Smithfield and Windsor that would coordinate the three governing bodies’ efforts to place automated speed limit enforcement cameras outside school zones in their jurisdictions.

The cameras would track the speed of vehicles and photograph the license plates of any observed speeding. Virginia’s General Assembly, in 2020, authorized localities to impose fines of up to $100 on motorists caught on camera speeding through a school zone.

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office has proposed contracting with Blue Line Solutions, a Tennessee-based company owned and operated by former law enforcement personnel. Each $100 fine assessed would bring $75 in revenue to the county. The remaining $25 would pay the “processing fee” Blue Line charges.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Per the 2020 state law, a law enforcement officer would need to approve each summons generated by the automated system.

Two of Isle of Wight’s nine public schools are located within the incorporated town limits of Windsor and a third is located in Smithfield. Both towns operate their own police departments.

Smithfield, as of May, was proposing to contract with a different vendor – Maryland-based Altumint – for a camera that would be placed on the flashing school zone sign outside Westside Elementary on West Main Street.

Altumint, which is presently working with neighboring Suffolk to install school zone speed cameras, has quoted Smithfield’s Town Council an average $3,500-per-month cost for Westside. The money would indirectly come out of the fines violators would pay. 

Smithfield Deputy Police Chief Chris Meier, in May, contended Blue Line’s proposal could violate a provision of the 2020 law that states any agreement for compensation must by “based on the value of goods and services provided, not on the number of violations paid or monetary penalties imposed.”

Blue Line contends it doesn’t actually split the revenue from the collected fines, and therefore isn’t in violation of the cited law. Randy Campbell, a former Virginia state trooper who’s now Blue Line’s regional senior advisor, told Isle of Wight’s supervisors on June 15 that in the event 100 speeders were fined, but only 80 paid the ticket, Blue Line’s cost of processing the remaining 20 would come out of the revenue the county receives from the fines.

Blue Line has already completed a speed study at Carrollton Elementary that found speeding to be so pervasive that, according to Campbell, the resulting fines would generate $1.5 million in five days.

Carrollton’s school zone is located on Brewers Neck Boulevard, a four-lane, 55 mph highway, rather than on New Towne Haven Lane, where the school is actually located. On Brewers Neck, the speed limit drops to 35 mph for the stretch of road that passes within a quarter-mile of the school.

As of June 15, the county had already reached out to Smithfield about coordinating school zone speed enforcement efforts, but had yet to propose the agreement to Windsor. Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman, on June 21, said he’d received Board of Supervisors Chairman William McCarty’s letter and had directed Town Manager Michael Stallings to work with County Administrator Randy Keaton to discuss the particulars of the agreement. The proposal, Bowman said, will likely go to the Town Council soon.

Isle of Wight supervisors also discussed the possibility of expanding the enforcement efforts to include cameras on the stop-sign arms that extend from the driver’s side of Isle of Wight school buses when they’re dropping off and picking up students. But as Isle of Wight County Schools, and not the county itself, bears responsibility for the buses, that component of the program would need to be approved by the School Board.