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Hall commissioner believes annexation is for speed trap

Gainesville police chief denies Banks' accusation

POSTED: March 21, 2009 12:13 a.m.

Hall County Commissioner Bobby Banks alleges that the only reason the Gainesville Police Department is interested in annexing property along Interstate 985 near Oakwood is to set up speed traps as a revenue source.

In a letter to Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper, Banks said he is "highly concerned about Gainesville’s intentions with a proposed annexation along I-985 near Chicopee Woods."

Copies of the letter were sent to Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras and City Manager Kip Padgett, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Hall County’s state legislature delegation and the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

"It concerns me that he would make this allegation without identifying what it’s based on," Hooper said.

Banks cited past complaints from constituents about the area as a strictly-enforced speed area.

"It would appear that the City of Gainesville is taking the same approach that the City of Oakwood has taken for years to use their police force as a principal means of revenue generation," the letter stated.

But Hooper said there are plenty of reasons why the annexation makes sense.

"All property on both sides of the roadway is within the incorporated city limits. The only location not within the city limits is the roadway itself," Hooper said. "The annexation of this island also alleviates a delayed response of emergency personnel because of the confusion associated with determining jurisdictional authority."

Hooper said 2.7 miles of I-985 between Ga. 60 and U.S. 129 were annexed by the city in December 2008, which includes the majority of the area in question.

Banks said he decided to write the letter following a number of complaints about speed traps.

"I’m not going to tolerate a speed trap in my district," Banks said.

Banks said he cannot think of other reasons why Gainesville would be interested in the property, which is
surrounded by Chicopee Woods.

"On either side of the road they’ve annexed, there’s no property tax advantage," Banks said. "It’s all woods."

Banks said he is concerned Gainesville and Hall County will get a reputation for setting speed traps, something that could make people avoid driving through Hall County and potentially hurt the county’s ability to attract industry.

Hooper said that according to his municipal court records, only two speeding tickets have been written on I-985 since the beginning of the year.

"We do traffic enforcement based on where we see a high volume of traffic accidents," Hooper said. "We look at our top 10 accident locations within the city and that’s where we focus our enforcement efforts. Also we base it on complaints or if we observe speed is excessive in certain areas, then we would try to do what we could to slow it down.

"Our department is not in the business of producing revenue; my personal integrity is such that that’s not something I would allow to occur. It’s unethical and we’re not in the revenue-producing business."

Oakwood’s acting city manager, Patti Doss-Luna, said she was unhappy about the accusations against Oakwood made in the letter.

"We are disappointed to be referenced by any rumor or falsehood that reflects negatively on our Oakwood Police Department," Doss-Luna wrote in a statement. "Unfounded statements of this nature are certainly not conducive to fostering the spirit of cooperation among our county and municipal governments in Hall County.

"Police Chief Randall Moon and his team are a great source of pride in our community as one of the most professional and ethical police departments anywhere in the state."

Moon could not be reached Friday for comment.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Friday he had received Banks’ letter but declined to comment on it.

Times staff reporter Stephen Gurr contributed to this report.



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