The T.O.W. that started it all.
By Jim

My story begins on a nice sunny Memorial Day.  I had left my parent's RV at Alton Camp Grounds minutes earlier and was on my way to Dublin.  I believed the speed limit to be 45 MPH and could find no sign that said otherwise from the last speed limit sign.  I, of course, was going under 45 because I had heard people talk about how much of a speed trap New Rome is and I didn't want to take any chances.

No sooner than I had pulled up to the light marking the end of New Rome, a police cruiser came zooming up behind me with lights and sirens blasting.  I thought he wanted to go around me so I pulled over as far as I could, but then I heard him say to pull into the B.P. station parking lot, I was shocked.  What the Hell had I done?

The less than personable police officer informed me that I was speeding,.  I was going 42 in a 35 zone.  I was dumbfounded.
After getting my ticket and already thinking of fighting it I drove back around and looked for a 35 MPH sign.  I didn't see it.
So I did it again to be sure and there it was.  Positioned less than 5 feet from the bottom of the ground and a good 11 feet from the side of the street curb.  I knew, as I am sure anyone in his or her right mind would, there was something wrong here.  I was bound and determined to prove it.

I spent many days emailing the Ohio Department Of Transportation, Federal Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and lawyers, looking for information and stories about New Rome.  I took pictures of the signs with my wife standing next to them and I found many stories about their "Speed Trap" and was getting a few answers from the emails.  When I finally heard back from ODOT it was from a sign engineer and he told me the size of the sign was ok and there were no laws regarding the position, though he thought it was a bit low.  I knew this had to be wrong!  It wasn't accident that signs all over the Nation were positioned otherwise.

While at work talking to my friends, Chad and Michael,   about the ticket and how mad I was.  I was joking about starting a web page about New Rome to expose their traffic trap and get more stories of their trap.  Michael mentioned that was available so I bought it and started working on it that day.  I really didn't expect anything to become of it, but if anything I was able to vent some of my frustrations.  The first "update" was posted to on 9/25/01.  It can be viewed still in our archives.  First archives  It was posted to people who didn't know it even existed.

The court date came and I had what evidence I could find in the Ohio Revised Code, but nothing about positioning of the sign.  The Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (OMUTCD) is not published online, for some reason, and the ORC only says very general things such as "You can't enforce a sign if it's not visible to a reasonable observant person" and so forth.  I had pictures of my wife who is 5' 7" stand next to the sign and in front of it which caused it to be completely covered.  No hard-core facts, but I was ready to fight with what I had.

I arrived at court.  What a joke!  The court resides in a trailer and most of the accused not only did not have insurance, but they did not have a valid drivers license either!  I was the only one there fighting a speeding ticket.  I was the LAST case to be heard and after sitting there for three and a half hours I was not too energetic.  The Magistrate all but said what I had wasn't enough evidence because I didn't have anything saying how tall the sign should be.  Being the nice guy that he is (yeah right), he said if I just plead guilty he would reduce it to a non-moving violation, though the fine ended up being the same.  Feeling beaten down I agreed.  But an appeal was burning in my mind even as he talked to the arresting officer about how ODOT had put the sign there so it had to be right.  I just smiled and nodded.  As I was being written a "bill" of my fines I was telling the clerk, Robin Spangler, about my starting  She was only mildly amused and said that she had never heard New Rome called a trap.  Yeah right.

The next day I got an email from the Federal Highway Administration giving me my much needed proof.  The Federal Manual states, "Where parking or pedestrian movements occur, the clearance to the bottom of the sign shall be at least 7 ft."  I was excited!  I also got hold of the right people at ODOT and they said the same thing!  I got copies of all this and was ready again.  I gave them my appeal the next day.  The officer who took it had NO idea what to do with the appeal, but said he would give it to someone.  Nine days went by and I called because I had not received anything.  The Clerk said she hadn't processed it yet, but to come in that night and she would.  I went in and the appeal process was rolling.

I got a paper in the mail about my appeal being handled at the County Court.  I was excited!  A real court!  I had read stories in the dispatch about people going to the County Traffic court and if they had evidence, they were let off.  How could I lose?!

Little did I know, this was an APPEALS court.  When I got there I got that sinking feeling.  The New Rome Lawyer/Magistrate was there and was talking to the judge about my case.  This is allowed?!?!  I had never been in a court like this and felt very scared and intimidated.  The lawyer came to me and asked what new evidence I had.  With a nervous hand I gave him the copies of the manuals.  He looked over them and just sort of shook his head.  He said he would show them to the judge and said you had to have these things certified and mocked that this wasn't something you should do without a real lawyer and that people have the wrong idea of court.  Soon, I was believing it.  He took it to the judge and had a good laugh with him.  He came back and told me that the judge said the Federal manual didn't apply because they were federal laws and that since the ODOT manual wasn't certified it wasn't admissible.  I was crushed.   Being my best friend he said he would write  up a paper to withdraw my appeal and the original charge would stick.  I just stared blankly and nodded.  I felt sick to my stomach.  He wrote up the withdraw and told me how he appreciated being educated on correct sign height.  I told him I would still try to get ODOT to make them correct it.  He said it would be corrected by the end of the day and to feel free to check it.  Again I felt ill.  He was admitting they were wrong and yet I would still have to pay the fine.

After I left the Court Offices I was filled with hatred.  Hatred of our legal system, hatred of the laws supposedly “protecting” us.  As I walked past the New Rome police car I felt an urge to smash its windows and kick it.  Of course I didn't, but that was what I wanted to do.

I started calling lawyers at this point and a couple said since I withdrew my appeal there was nothing I could do.  I am a stubborn man and I was determined not to give  them my money.  I was ready to go to jail.  I finally talked to a lawyer who is familiar with fighting New Rome and he agreed that the charges were B/S, but withdrawing my appeal was the wrong thing to do.  I felt like a fool, but was sticking to my guns.

By December I was thinking that maybe they were going to let my ticket go because they knew it was wrong.  I hadn't heard anything and Chapman had resigned as Mayor.  Mid December I got notice from the BMV that my license was suspended by New Rome for not paying my fine.  I scoffed at their attempt to get me to bend to their will.  Form this point on my wife drove me where I needed to go.  Things started picking up about this time in the news because Jamie had been elected Mayor and they were fighting the idea that someone had broken into their way of life right under their noses.  They "voted" to refuse to let Jamie take his place as Mayor.

Time passed as I watched as things continued to develop in New Rome when I was asked why I hadn't been updating the page with links and such by Chad or Michael.  I hadn't really thought about it, but I started putting links to the news stories up and telling my friends about my site so they could watch things unfold.  One day I read a great story in The Dispatch by Joe Blundo regarding New Rome.  It had his email address at the end so I did what I had to do.  I mailed him about

It was soon after that Steve Stephens from The Columbus Dispatch interviewed me for a story he was doing and on January 31st, 2002 I made my radio debut on The John Corby Show.  I told my story and that was it. existed to more than the few people I had told about it.  We were getting ToWs and Reader Support from all over Ohio.

That Sunday the story came out in The Columbus Dispatch and we got thousands of people coming to the site.

The rest is history in the making.  We have mail and people from all over the world visiting and showing their support for what we are trying to do.

Jim Bussey