MUSCATINE — The city of Muscatine's legal fees for its lawsuit with the Iowa Department of Transportation totals $161,847.49 paid to Brick, Gentry, Bowers, Swartz & Levis P.C., regarding the use of a speed camera at U.S. 61 and University Drive.
This number covers all legal fees from May 8, 2015, to now. With the lawsuit likely going to the Iowa Supreme Court in the spring, costs will continue.
Both City Administrator Gregg Mandsager and Kevin Jenison, communications manager for the city, said it is a matter of public safety — the very reason Iowa Department of Transportation wants the camera taken down.
In documents provided from the city to the Journal through a public records request, Nancy Lueck, finance director for the city, writes that revenue from the ATE camera decreased annual revenues.
"The impact to the City budget is estimated at $50,000 for the last several months of fiscal year 2016/2017 [sic] and the estimated reduction in revenue on an annual basis is $325,000," Lueck wrote in an email included in the documents.
Between 2011, when the cameras were installed, and 2016, a total of 51,052 speeding violations were recorded. In 2017, they reported that speeding violations skyrocketed to 18,711. Income from these fines goes to Public Safety, a general fund expenditure.
"Without those funds, some programs may end or money may be diverted from other programs or new fees may have to be created by the City Council to offset the lost revenue," Jenison wrote in a news release on behalf of the city.
The city maintains that its primary reason for fighting this lawsuit is for public safety.
"Don't get me wrong, but there's a reason someone is yelling," said Steve Gent, director of IDOT's Office of Traffic and Safety. "There is a lot of ticket money at stake here."
By comparison, the number of speeding tickets between 2011 and 2016 at the other intersections with speeding cameras are 9,058 at Mulberry Avenue and U.S. 61, 11,070 at Cleveland and Park Avenue, 2,938 at Washington and Park Avenue and 596 at Cedar and Houser streets.
"The government's job is to provide services and solve problems for their citizens in the most cost-effective way possible," Gent said. "Assuming that the cost to society is acceptable, a big chunk of that money goes to some out-of-state company (Gatso USA). Is that the best way for us as government agency to fix this problem?"
"And by the way," Gent said. "I'm not even sure that they fixed this problem the crashes don't show that they fixed it."