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Banks will drop complaint if city gives up radar

Commissioner opposes move over fears of speed trap along I-985

POSTED: March 24, 2009 11:21 p.m.

Hall County Commissioner Bobby Banks said Tuesday he is willing to drop his complaint against the city of Gainesville’s annexation requests if the police department will verify that it will not apply for a radar permit.

Banks is concerned that a pair of proposed annexations by the city will be used for speed traps.

The city is proposing separate annexations, one that would take in a section of Interstate 985 north of Atlanta Highway and a second along McEver Road near Gould Drive.

Banks believes revenue from traffic tickets is the only reason the roads would be attractive to the city.

"All I’m trying to do is prevent them from sitting in the woods trying to catch someone," Banks said. "If I have to oppose a radar permit to prevent them from running a speed trap, then that’s what I’ve got to do."

In a letter dated Tuesday to police Chief Frank Hooper, Banks said his initial comments about a possible speed trap "caused so much public discussion and concern" that he is willing to drop the opposition in exchange for a promise that the city police will not run radar surveillance on I-985.

Hooper said Tuesday he just received the letter and had not written a formal response yet.

The chief said in general, however, that "just like any of our streets, we want to be able to protect our citizens. If we identified any issues (with speeding) we would want to be able to address that and give our officers the proper tools to enforce the law. We wouldn’t want to do anything to handicap our officers from protecting the public."

Hall County Administrator Charley Nix said Banks’ request is reasonable.

"That should solve the problem quickly," Nix said. "I think we have ample deputies patrolling our county highways and keeping us safe."

Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett had not seen Banks’ letter Tuesday but said he would have preferred county officials to come to the city with any problems instead of making them public.

"It’s unfortunate that these issues have had to be aired in public like this and if there was a concern … by anybody in the county I would hope that they would come over and talk to us," Padgett said.

Law enforcement agencies must apply to the Georgia Department of Transportation for a permit to run radar. The department inspects the road to make sure it meets requirements for visibility and grade.

There must be at least 500 feet of visibility and the grade cannot be 7 percent or greater for law enforcement to use radar to detect speed.

The Gainesville Police Department already has applied for a permit to run radar on the portion of I-985 that was annexed in December.

Hall County sheriff’s deputies are permitted to run radar for the length of I-985 throughout Hall County, regardless of jurisdiction, as well as on the north end Ga. 365.

Sheriff Steve Cronic said that the new cable barriers in the median of I-985 make it difficult for deputies to set up in the median to patrol for speeders.

Although deputies do patrol the interstate — usually with a moving radar — he said that the area has historically been patrolled by the Georgia State Patrol.

Cronic said the sheriff’s office and the local municipalities generally have a good working relationship, and will continue to work together despite squabbles between other officials.

Issues like the city’s annexation of the interstate right-of-way are best left to groups like the City Council and the county commission, Cronic said.

"We’ve just got to do our best to serve the public," he said.

Staff writers Ashley Fielding and Stephen Gurr contributed to this report.



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