Judge: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids 'misinformed' court in speed camera case

Judge calls it 'significant omission' about who covers cost of camera removal

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Cedar Rapids and Des Moines officials “misinformed” the court about who bears the cost of removing traffic camera equipment on primary highways and interstates in their cities, according to an order late Wednesday from a Polk County judge.

Judge Scott D. Rosenberg earlier in the day had released an order allowing the cities to keep the cameras in place as long as they are not issuing citations because of the “substantial” cost the cities would bear to remove them.

“The court is now informed that they (the cities) would not bear these costs,” Rosenberg wrote. “The court finds this a significant omission.”

The contract calls for third-party traffic camera vendor, GATSO USA, of Beverly, Mass. — not the cities — to pay any equipment-related costs and any costs related to remaining in compliance with the law, The Gazette has reported.

The matter stems from a lawsuit filed by Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine against the Iowa Department of Transportation to block a March 2015 Iowa DOT order to move or take down several traffic cameras. The court sided with the Iowa DOT on April 25 stating the Iowa DOT has broad authority over operations on primary highways and interstates in Iowa.

The cities have appealed the ruling and requested a stay to continue issuing tickets during the appeal. Earlier Wednesday, Rosenberg denied the stay, but wrote there is “good cause” not order the cities to pay for removal of the cameras before an appeal decision is reached.

“The petitioners, being public entities, are in a unique position in that they are government institutions and are in a position to compensate those adversely affected if the court’s ruling is affirmed,” he wrote. “There is also little likelihood of the petitioners ceasing to exist.”

An executive with GATSO USA had estimated it would cost $22,000 per I-380 location to remove and reinstall the cameras elsewhere, and up to $70,000 to erect a new truss to mount the cameras.

Despite considering it a significant omission, Rosenberg wrote that “the reasoning for the order for the stay with conditions remains as it maintains the status quo with no use of the (automated traffic enforcement) equipment.”

Therefore, he made corrections but left the order as is.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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