HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) – Hopewell's sheriff is working to save what critics have dubbed the "Million Dollar Mile".
At issue are two stretches of I-295, where sheriff's deputies promote highway safety while generating millions in speeding fines. Now, state lawmakers have a budget amendment in place that threatens to end the program, one that isn't going over well in Hopewell.
Sheriff Greg Anderson is walking mad, and he isn't afraid to talk about the reason why.
"I am angry about what I consider to be a political vendetta," Anderson said.
Wednesday, the state Senate passed a budget amendment to take money away from the tiny city, and divert it to the state. The money is from Hopewell's often criticized speeding enforcement on I-295...the effort that generated $1.6 million last year at the expense of drivers who today had mixed opinions on it.
"This looks almost predatory," said John Fraysse of Mechanicsville.
"I think there's so many other ways that the city could raise money," said Alecia Gregg of Suffolk.
"If you don't speed they don't make money. Simple as that," said Eric Conner of Hopewell.
The state wants to put a greater portion of the money from speeding fines in its own literary fund. Sheriff Anderson argues, it's really meant to put his controversial program out of business.
"Fatalities will go up. Accidents will go up. It's gonna cost lives," Anderson said.
On the other hand, AAA believes differently, having successfully raised public awareness about Hopewell's efforts
"It takes away that huge revenue incentive that can lead law enforcement to the slippery slope, we believe, of enforcing for money and not for safety," said spokesperson Martha Meade.
Not so, says Anderson...who's making the case for safety, faster than a car speeding down the Interstate.
"When somebody attempts to bully me, they got the wrong guy. I don't back down," Anderson said.
The state budget, along with this and other amendments, will soon go to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has the power to make changes before things become official.
AAA points out that the Hopewell Sheriff's Office generates $150,000 a month in speeding fines, but Anderson says that money goes into the city general fund and not toward pay raises within his department.
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