Smithfield, county continue speed camera talks

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Smithfield is continuing its talks with Isle of Wight County on a plan to place automated speed limit enforcement cameras outside school zones.

The matter was one of several topics discussed at an Oct. 16 joint meeting of the Town Council and county supervisors.

Earlier this year, Smithfield proposed contracting with Maryland-based Altumint to place a camera outside Westside Elementary, the only school located in the town’s limits. The county proposed contracting with Tennessee-based Blue Line Solutions. In June, the county proposed coordinating its efforts with Smithfield for Westside and with Windsor for the two schools located within that town’s limits.

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Smithfield Deputy Police Chief Chris Meier, in May, contended Blue Line’s collection methods could violate a provision of a 2020 state law that allowed $100 fines for motorists caught speeding on camera, though Blue Line disputed the claim.

Blue Line representatives have stated that for every $100 fine, $75 would go to the county and $25 would go to the company. Randy Campbell, a former Virginia state trooper who’s now Blue Line’s regional senior adviser, told supervisors in June that the agreement isn’t a true revenue split, and therefore not a violation of the law, as if 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.

According to county Transportation Director Jamie Oliver, a first step in the collaboration process might entail asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to reevaluate the boundaries of the current school zones. VDOT issued new guidelines in 2017 on what qualifies as a school zone, Oliver said.

For example, a stretch of Courthouse Highway near Georgie D. Tyler Middle School still has school zone pavement markings and a flashing 35 mph speed limit sign outside the entrance to what is now the Windsor Town Center. The entrance formerly led to the now-demolished Windsor Middle School. Georgie Tyler’s main entrance is now on Court Street.

Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman is proposing that the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, which shares jurisdiction with the Smithfield Police Department within the town’s limits, be the sole law enforcement agency tasked with reviewing and issuing fines for any speeding violations captured by the cameras.