|COMMENT By Bob Weaver|
While the WV Legislature is considering opening up WV State Forests to extraction of underground minerals for extra money, some WV towns are boosting their coffers by ticketing speeders.
The is no law in WV Code to challenge towns from becoming speed traps.
Officials are saying the move is to improve safety, a claim long made by the City of Summersville, the best-known speed trap in West Virginia.
In the past three and a half years, Gauley Bridge, a town with a population of 700, has issued 5,057 speeding tickets, more than any other town in the state, according to the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles.
It's likely that many of the violations have not been reported to the state, state officials say.
Parkersburg appears to be the latest speed trap city in the Mountain State.
The City of Parkersburg has issued more than 1,800 citations in June and July this year, more than double the number issued during the same period last year.
Mayor Bob Newell maintains the increased enforcement is not a money-making operation, saying "Enforcement has increased, but it is just for safety."
Every year since 2006, Gauley Bridge has collected at least a half-million dollars in fines, fees and court costs.
Gauley Bridge made a good move by hiring the Whipkey brothers, Shawn and Heath, former ticket writing cops for the City of Summersville.
The Whipkeys were big players in the Summersville speed trap, responsible for 12,319 speeding tickets from July 2000 to March 2003, according to Summersville records.
In 2002, Gauley Bridge reported issuing 28 speeding ticket convictions to the DMV for the entire year, according to the Charleston Gazette.
In 2003, the number rose to 268.
Last year, Gauley Bridge police issued 1,528, according to DMV statistics, which could be a low number.
Gary Harki, a reporter with the Charleston Gazette says speeding tickets can be disposed of in two ways so as to not show up on the DMV statistics.
Many cities have a diversion program where drivers can take classes, pay fines and get tickets resolved without having them submitted to the DMV and having points taken off their licenses.
Those classes cost money.
Folks in the region might consider avoiding Gauley Bridge and Parkersburg, either shopping closer home, or in the case of Parkersburg, stopping at all the fine outlets in Mineral Wells.
Unfortunately, getting to Vienna's Grand Central Mall generally requires going through Parkersburg.
Again, if you believe it's all about safety, enjoy.
HUR HERALD 2002
SUMMERSVILLE'S $1.2 MILLION SPEED TRAP - It's Public Safety Business
COMMENT by Bob Weaver
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their pocketbooks.
Stay away from the West Virginia town of Summersville (pop. 2,700).
The city government, law enforcement and some citizens continue to verbalize unreasonable arrogance in writing and defending over 18,000-19,000 speeding tickets annually on U.S. Route 19, a scenic gateway route to the south.
After a half-dozen recent local and national news stories, letters of protest and town meetings, those fine Summersville folks just don't get it. They're in the "public safety business."
During 2000, the town took in nearly $1 million dollars in fines and court costs, and another $277,000 for a "driving school," available from the town or on the Internet. In 2000 the small town had accumulated a $2.2 million surplus.
We highly suggest avoiding Summersville, by-pass it whenever possible and refrain from spending any money in or near the corporate limits.
The Canadian Automobile Association has declared the town a speed trap and has advised their members to avoid the region. The town is listed on speed trap web sites to be avoided.
The Canadian Automobile Association says "Police continue to relentlessly tag motorists in this area."
Summersville is now making other national speed-trap towns to avoid.