This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Lawmakers took a step toward slamming the brakes Monday on an infamous "speed trap" in the town of Mantua in Box Elder County despite protests from the local mayor, who is also the police chief who writes many of the traffic tickets there.
The Senate Transportation Committee voted 5-0 to endorse SB100 to allow no city to use traffic tickets to generate more than 25 percent of its budget. It now goes to the full Senate.
Mantua currently funds about a third of its budget through traffic ticket fines, virtually all of it coming from non-residents, said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, sponsor of the bill. Because of that, he said Mantua residents enjoy low property taxes.
Since he introduced the bill, Hillyard's been flooded with phone calls and emails from people statewide complaining they have been ticketed in Mantua unreasonably something he said he knows well from constant complaints from Cache Valley residents who pass through there often.
"I've never had a complaint from people who drive [Sardine] canyon about any Utah Highway Patrolmen there" or police in nearby Wellsville or Brigham City. Hillyard said Mantua "is the only place that I get complaints about. What happens in Mantua just isn't fair."
He said he constantly hears of tickets for going a few miles over the speed limit when no one is around, including late at night or on Sundays. "If you have a budget you have to meet, you have to issue that many tickets to meet that budget," he complained.
Mike Johnson, who is both Mantua's mayor and police chief, complained his town is being unfairly targeted. He is a former Highway Patrol sergeant, and said no one is ticketed unfairly and enforcement has made the area safer because most people know to slow down or they may face a ticket.
"We would lose enough money that we may have to do away with several officers," he said. "The cost of running our police would be severely hampered."
But Hillyard said Mantua seems to have a large police department for a town with a population of 741: a full-time police chief, and three half-time officers.
The Tribune previously reported that Mantua police wrote 1,710 tickets in fiscal 2013. KUTV reported that it wrote 2,185 in fiscal 2014.
Lorrie Hurd, Mantua's financial clerk, testified that the town kept $246,000 in ticket revenue in fiscal 2015. She said running the court there costs $101,000 and funding police costs $128,000 so the town had a surplus of about $17,0000 beyond that.
But Johnson said that isn't enough to cover fire and other services the city provides to passers-by in area canyons without reimbursement.
The Utah League of Cities and Towns testified against the bill, saying it appeared to target just Mantua raising the possibility that state lawmakers could target other cities they don't like, or hurt their ability to raise needed revenue.
Hillyard defended the bill. "I don't think we should have our police office act as revenue collectors," he said.
Hillyard added that he is not running the bill because he was ticketed there saying he has never been stopped there because he knew of Mantua's reputation as a speed trap, and always slows down there.