Ticket-demic: Speed camera racks up $100K in fines near COVID testing site
PAWTUCKET — If you’re going to McCoy Stadium to get a COVID-19 test, beware of the speed camera.
Hundreds of motorists have discovered the hard way that the path to the testing site leads past Jenks Middle School on Division Street, where a speed camera is stationed just beyond the center-field wall parking lot.
“I’m not looking at the speed-limit signs; I’m looking for the COVID signs,” said Jim Lowder of Warwick of his trip to McCoy last month. Lowder was clocked going 33 mph in a 20-mph zone on Dec. 3.
“A week or two later I get a $50 ticket in the mail," he said. "I'm like: ‘What the heck?’”
Since the site opened for testing, just over 2,000 motorists have received tickets, generating more than $100,000. Since school opened on Sept. 14, the camera in front of Jenks has generated 7,500 tickets, yielding $376,000.
Not all drivers receiving tickets were going to the testing site, which opened Nov. 20. But a Hummel Report analysis of figures provided by the City of Pawtucket shows there was an uptick in tickets on the four days immediately following the opening of the testing site and a significant increase in early December from the daily average sent out in September and October.
For example, in November the number of tickets issued ranged from a low of one on Nov. 4 to a high of 148 on Nov. 13, with most days more than 100 tickets going out. The day the testing site opened, 143 tickets were issued. And on Dec. 4, 220 tickets were issued. It was the most tickets generated since the opening of school in September — when an average of nearly 250 motorists per day received citations on the days right after school began.
The speed cameras operate from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on school days. The COVID 19 testing site is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends.
Lowder needed a test because his teenage son had COVID 19 symptoms. Even though the son tested negative, Lowder’s employer required him to be tested. “The quickest I could get was McCoy,” he said, adding that he was out of work a week trying to line up an appointment. He said he was not familiar with the area and was trying to follow the orange COVID testing signs posted around the stadium.
In fact, even those who have gone to McCoy for a baseball game might be confused, as the front entrance to the stadium on Columbus Avenue is blocked off. Traffic is rerouted onto Division Street, and those being tested enter from the parking lot along the right-field side of the stadium on Ben Mondor Way. After the testing, they are directed around the stadium and back onto Division Street across from Jenks.
“I’m listening to my GPS,” Lowder said. “I didn’t even know there was a school anywhere near McCoy Stadium. I was going along following traffic, didn’t really feel like I was going fast. In fact, I was getting pushed along (by other drivers).”
After he received the ticket, Lowder said his wife called the Pawtucket School Department. “They said (Jenks) wasn’t even open due to COVID.” Lowder called the number on the ticket and no one got back to him.
Mayor Donald Grebien tells the Hummel Report that while middle-school students have not been going to school at Jenks because of the pandemic, the building was open from Sept. 14 to Dec. 11 for secondary special-education students and multilingual-language learners.
“It’s kind of a kick in the butt because a lot of us had to go to another part of the state we’re not familiar with,” Lowder said. “I can pay the fine, but what about these people who have been out of work and are struggling and may need a test to start a new job?"
The Hummel Report is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that relies, in part, on donations. For more information, go to HummelReport.org. Reach Jim at Jim@HummelReport.org.