Thursday, June 5, 2003

Ohio village loses speed trap

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The lucrative speed-trap business is coming to an end for the village of New Rome and its 60 residents.

A law signed by Gov. Bob Taft last week eliminates mayor's courts in villages of fewer than 100 residents.

The mayor's court in the tiny town on Columbus' western edge takes in hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic fines every year on speeding tickets written on a 1,000-foot stretch of U.S. 40 where the speed limit drops by 10 mph.

After the law takes effect in about 90 days, the New Rome cases will be heard in Franklin County Municipal Court, which will keep all court costs.

The results are "just going to be amazing," said Ed Anthony, a village councilman who led an unsuccessful campaign to have New Rome dissolved.

"Justice is going to be served instead of just being a revenue-producing business for New Rome," he said.

Losing the mayor's court will be the death knell of New Rome, said Scott Shaw, a lawyer who served as magistrate of the New Rome Mayor's Court for eight months in 2001.

"I don't know anyone that will be sorry if New Rome folds its tent and steals away into the night," said Shaw.

The new law also could spell the end of New Rome as a village.

A village of less than 150 residents can be dissolved if it fails to follow election laws for two elections, is declared to be in a fiscal emergency by the state auditor for three consecutive years, is found to be unauditable for two audits or fails to provide two municipal services, such as police protection, trash pickup or street maintenance.

New Rome has a history of fiscal mismanagement and questionable elections practices.

Anthony said he and Mayor Jamie Mueller will ask for a full state audit of the village when the new law takes effect.

Connie Tucker, the village clerk-treasurer, estimates that New Rome could lose as much as two-thirds of its revenue by losing mayor's court.

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