Bridge Day isn't the only time Gauley Bridge police ramp up their speeding ticket handouts. During the first seven days of July, including the Fourth of July weekend over the past three years, Gauley Bridge police issued an average of 93 speeding tickets, according to town records.
Every year since 2006, the town has collected at least half a million dollars in fines, fees and court costs, according to documents from the state Auditor's Office. That figure includes speeding tickets and other violations, such as parking tickets. The fees make up well over 50 percent of the town's budget for each of the past five years.
Raynell Smith says she was driving so slow she pulled over twice to let cars pass the day last July she was given a speeding ticket in Gauley Bridge.
Smith was sightseeing with her 82-year-old mother, who hadn't been through the area in 60 years.
"If anything, I should have been arrested for holding up traffic," Smith said. "I was the last car in a line of cars, and I have Virginia plates."
Her court date is Oct. 20 in Gauley Bridge. She plans on driving about 700 miles round-trip to contest the $150 ticket because she doesn't believe it's right for police to abuse their authority.
"I know I wasn't speeding. . . . If my local law enforcement officers did this in my city, I'd be outraged," she said. "It's killing the town. I'm surprised the people of the town put up with it."
Cindy Dragan, chairwoman of the Bridge Day Festival, said she has received complaints from people about getting tickets in Gauley Bridge, although not for getting tickets on Bridge Day specifically.
"All during the year, we have people call and let us know they have got tickets there. We want to make sure everyone goes, and we want to make sure everyone obeys the law," she said of the festival organizers. "We don't want it to be marred by tickets."
Parsons said he believes the town is making changes to prevent Gauley Bridge from being perceived in the future as a speed trap.
"No one wants their name sullied by the belief that there is an unfair system in town," he said. "Changes will be made, if necessary, to make it fair, because that's the good and proper thing for elected officials in any government entity to be doing."
Reach Gary Harki at gha...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.