Hartford Wants Highway Fines

Hartford — The Police Department is taking steps to allow the town to keep revenue from traffic tickets issued by town officers on some state-maintained roads.

Now, when police issue a ticket on any of the state highways that traverse the town, the fine paid by the driver goes to the state.

“We are not doing this as a cash cow, so to speak,” Deputy Chief Brad Vail said. “(But) inevitably it’s going to be a monetary benefit to the general fund,” and in turn “it may alleviate some concerns (of) a taxpayer.”

The state highways in Hartford affected by the ordinance change are routes 14, 4 and 5 and Bugbee Street, which connects to Route 5 from the Exit 12 interchange on Interstate 91.

Currently, when a traffic ticket is issued on a state highway by a town officer, the violation falls under a state ordinance.

If the Selectboard approves the police department’s request, the ticket would be issued instead under a town ordinance, Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said.

“It only makes sense,” he said. “We are the ones out there doing the enforcement.”

Vail and Hartford’s Public Safety Director Steven Locke, who doubles as the town’s fire chief, presented the proposed change to the Selectboard last week.

“I don’t see a downside,” Selectboard Vice Chairman Simon Dennis said Wednesday. “I do see a downside if it’s used as a vehicle for raising revenue, that is a no-no, but that is no one’s intention.”

Selectboard Chairman Chuck Wooster also favored the proposed change, saying “it just makes sense.”

“For the town to enforce speed limits on state highways, we sort of have to cover it out of our own pocket,” Wooster said. “If we pass this ordinance, we will be able to keep this money and it will pay its own way.”

A public hearing on the ordinance change will be held at the Selectboard’s Aug. 6 meeting. Members of the Selectboard could vote that night following the hearing, or wait to vote at the board’s Aug. 20 meeting, Rieseberg said.

Following a 60-day waiting period, the ordinance would go into effect.

In anticipation of changing the ordinance, the police department went through and identified every speed zone along each of the four state highways and defined the length of the speed zone, the speed limit and the direction the route travels.

“We had an officer go out and clock the distance,” he said, adding the department triple checked their findings. “Everything has to be black and white.”

Dennis said it costs the town roughly $50 an hour to have officers cover state highways, and noted none of the revenue generated during those patrols comes back to the town.

With the recent string of fatal accidents on Route 4, a heightened police presence to crack down on drivers is necessary, Dennis said.

“We have kind of recognized it as a real community problem,” Dennis said, of Route 4. “We need to create a culture of driving slow and to slow traffic down by means of police surveillance.”

Karen Horn, Vermont League of Cities and Town director of public policy and advocacy, said there has been a long-standing issue from a town’s perspective about who should get the revenues from tickets issued on state highways.

“If the towns are doing all the work, why would the funding be going to the state?” Horn saidJordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.