Report: #727506

Complaint Review: City of Estelline, Texas

  • Submitted: Tue, May 10, 2011
  • Updated: Sun, September 16, 2012
  • Reported By: anonymous — Estelline Texas United States of America
  • City of Estelline, Texas
    507 Burnett Street
    Estelline, Texas
    United States of America

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Estelline has a reputation for being a prominent Texas speed trap. It
has a one-person police force whose main purpose is to fill city
coffers. From 2000 through 2009, Estelline had the second highest
traffic fine revenue per citizen in Texas,
more than 300% the per citizen revenue of third place Domino, Texas...

Estelline Texas Speed Trap

Estelline is situated at the junction of US Highway 287 and State
Highway 87 in east central Hall County, approximately 14 miles southeast
of Memphis and 15 miles northwest of Childress. The nearest major city
is Amarillo, located 102 miles northwest of Estelline.

The population was 168 at the 2000 census. A July 1, 2008 U.S. Census
Bureau estimate placed the population at 155. According to the United
States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.7 square miles
(1.9 km), all of it land.

sources: {wikipedia ~ ~ ~ ~ U.S. Census Bureau}
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#1 General Comment

Large sign at edge of town

AUTHOR: Doc - (United States of America)

  One thing I have learned over the years in Texas is watch for speed zones and small towns. Even this little town does show a clear speed limit coming from either direction on 287. There is a fairly good piece of highway distance between th 70 and the 55 as well as a city limit sign which shouldbe an auto matic sign to slow down there is a town ahead

 I am not saying the town is right in what it is doing but do know the few times we have been thru the town we were not bothered  by the police force . I was running about 58-60 and saw him parked under  what looked like an old gas station awning.

 We have seen cars fly thru the town running as much as what I believe is 80 or more and just think it is another small town that can be ignored.

These same people do it in construction zones and on the highway 

 Coming south on 287 at the edge of town on the left hand sign is a big billboard sign that says 


 I did not see one on the other side of town.
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#2 Author of original report

"We're trying to fix our town up." --Estelline City Council Member

AUTHOR: anonymous - (USA)

Fighting a reputation Larry Ivy, a ranch foreman who sits on the
Estelline City Council, bristles at the suggestion that the town is a
speed trap. The state sets the highway speed limit and it's clearly
marked, he said. Vehicles blowing through town at 70 mph are a danger to
residents, and the city has the right to slow them down, Ivy asserts.

At the same time, he said, without highway fines, the city would have no
police force. "We're trying to fix our town up," Ivy said. "Without
that money to mow and take down old buildings, we'd be like some of
these other towns around here that have just gone away."

SOURCE- 2008 - (Investigative Reporter Visits Estelline)

A picture tells a thousand words...This pictures are from 2011...One Million dollars later...
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#3 Author of original report

Wake Up...

AUTHOR: anonymous - (USA)

Illiterate? Hardly...Read the signs?? Obviously you fell asleep in your ethics class...Look...You're still yawning... When you assume...You make an a*s out of you and me...The Author of this report is a former City Employee...(Texas Peace Officer) Exposing this farce and those defending this town are most likely City Employees or City Council Members.
To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.
   --Abraham Lincoln (American 16th US President (1861-65)
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#4 Consumer Comment

Thinning the herd.

AUTHOR: mr rik - (USA)



I watch the "greenies" get tickets.

Maybe thats the way it should be.

You can boycott this place by refusing to buy ANYTHING there, if they have anything to sell that is.

If they want ticketing to be a sole source of revenue, so be it.

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#5 Consumer Comment


AUTHOR: Susan - (USA)

You are right, it is the fault of the police that you are so illerate, you cant read speed limit signs. 
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#6 Author of original report

Newspaper Article ( ~ 2008

AUTHOR: anonymous - (USA)

Radar Detector vs top of the line STALKER radar installed in a 2006 Dodge Charger. The radar can track multiple vehicles front and rear. Will identify fastest vehicle in lane. The feature that gets you seeing red is called 'Instant On' this feature is manually controlled by a remote control. The gradual slope when traveling north to south on US Highway 287 into Estelline, Texas confuses radar detectors. The speed limit suddenly drops from 70 to 50 for a few blocks and then picks back up to 55 then 70. Night time speed limit in Texas is 65 mph. We found an interesting article archived from 2008. The reporter from uncovered a lot of information in a very short period of time. Please note that Estelline, Texas is currently the second largest speed trap in Texas. Right ahead of 3rd place Domino, Texas. The YTD fiscal numbers are mind boggling. Found out from a City Council member that when the new City Council took over a couple years ago. The previous City Council had failed to pay a large chunk of revenue back to the state. (1975 Speed Trap Law) Approximately $600,000 was owed to the State. That number now is down to approximately $250,000. So the answer...'Where is all the money going?' Easy fix...The State is waiting for their check in the mail...Estelline Outdoor Entertainment Association is another stop for the Money Train. Like Abraham Lincoln once said...'To sin by silence when they should protest...makes cowards of men.'

Here is the archived news report from 2008...Enjoy!!

You probably knew that, but it's always a good reminder to be careful...:rolleyes:

Estelline uses speed-trap fines to finance nearly its entire budget

Texas speed traps

Speak up: Where do you think there is a speed trap? ESTELLINE With his lean profile and weathered face, Officer Barney Gilley looks every bit the part of a West Texas lawman. Now and then, tourists stop and ask him to pose for snapshots in his mean-looking Dodge Charger squad car.

Most of the time, though, Gilley is the one making the introductions along U.S. 287 as it runs, briefly, through Estelline and its single blinking yellow light.

"People know me from Los Angeles to New York," he says, a slight grin forming.

Gilley writes about 23 tickets a day to drivers who fail to slow as the wide, flat four-lane leaves the Panhandle's red-dirt cotton fields and enters this farm town of 168 residents about a hundred miles southeast of Amarillo.

Despite a 1975 Texas law aimed at curbing speed traps, Estelline has been able to mine nearly its entire budget from motorists who fail to slow from 70 mph to 50 mph when they hit the city limits.

"We follow the state law," said Estelline Mayor Rick Manley, whose current budget anticipates it will take in $320,000 in traffic fines this year. The town keeps some of the money but by law will have to givea chunk to the state.

Paying back the state Texas' speed-trap law uses an indirect approach to discourage small towns from relying too heavily on traffic tickets.

Under the law, which applies to towns of fewer than 5,000, nearly all traffic fines that exceed 30 percent of a city's previous year's total general revenues must be paid to the state. For instance, a town that takes in total revenues of $100,000 this year can keep only $30,000 in traffic fines next year, plus $1 for each ticket over the cap.

The law, which is enforced by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, prescribes no penalties beside payment of money past due for violations. And cities can grow their budgets each year by writing more tickets.

This year, Estelline will keep about $110,000 in highway fines, said Connie Mondragon, the municipal judge who also is working temporarily as city clerk.

"We're able to increase our revenue a bit every year," said Manley, a retired prison guard who moved to Estelline eight years ago.

At least five other small towns that aggressively ticket motorists appear to have learned how to live with Texas' speed-trap law as well.

Since 1999, Driscoll (south of Corpus Christi), Estelline, Martindale (east of San Marcos), Mount Enterprise (north of Nacogdoches), Payne Springs (southeast of Dallas) and Zavalla (east of Lufkin) have each voluntarily paid more than
$10,000 to the state in excess fines, according to figures provided by the comptroller's office under the
Texas Open Records Act.

People in Estelline, which ranks second behind Mount Enterprise in excess fines voluntarily sent to the state over the past seven years, do not deny the highway is the town's chief meal ticket.

"If we did not write tickets we would not have a City Hall, city employees, a police officer, a judge," Mondragon said. "Welcome to Estelline."

A city surviving On a recent weekday, Mondragon was in a small office adjacent to the volunteer fire department working through a stack of mail sent from recently nabbed speeders. The town's two-room brick City Hall next door
was damaged last month by a small tornado that demolished two 100-year-old buildings on the other side of the town square.

Estelline's only cafe closed last year and on a recent late-winter morning, the town looked all but deserted as a fierce High Plains wind blew in a legion of tumbleweeds and dust that reddened the sky.

In its heyday in the 1890s, Estelline was a cattle-shipping center on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway. It had 1,000 residents, two newspapers, a large general merchandise store, a lumberyard and a bank that operated for about 40 years until it failed in the Great Depression, according to a history compiled by the University of Texas at Austin.

Today, the only signs of commercial life in Estelline are two liquor stores that voters approved in 1983. One sells groceries and gasoline, and between the two the only sellers of alcohol in dry Hall County they bring in about $15,000 in state sales tax a year, city budget
figures show.

The town, which does not run a water or sewer utility, collects a total of $2,680 in property taxes and $3,000 in rental income from houses it has taken over.

"We're not getting rich here," said Mondragon, the judge. "We won't be retiring from this." It costs about $126,000 a year to run its one-man police force and city court, including Gilley's $50,000 a year salary. "It's hard if you're a small town finding someone who will work like Barney," said Manley, the mayor. "A lot of the guys will just sit around by the coffee pot. Barney will work six days a week."

Even at $170 to $280 per ticket (for exceeding the speed limit by 1 mph to 35 mph) it takes a lot of tickets to float even Estelline's modest budget. The state receives $71.50 for costs and fees on every ticket; drivers who opt to take a driving safety course pay no fine; and truckers who are ticketed often hire a lawyer and appeal to county courts, which keep any fines paid, Mondragon said.

Local drivers such as Justin Garnica, owner of Gloria's Caf in Memphis, the county seat, say they know to slow down in Estelline.

"He'll be parked behind City Hall, where the building confuses a radar detector, or there's a little dip he likes north of town," Garnica said. "Everybody around here knows to slow down over there. It's out-of-towners who get caught."

Fighting a reputation Larry Ivy, a ranch foreman who sits on the Estelline City Council, bristles at the suggestion that the town is a speed trap. The state sets the highway speed limit and it's clearly marked, he said. Vehicles blowing through town at 70 mph are a danger to residents, and the city has the right to slow them down, Ivy asserts.

At the same time, he said, without highway fines, the city would have no police force. "We're trying to fix our town up," Ivy said. "Without that money to mow and take down old buildings, we'd be like some of these other towns around here that have just gone away."

State officials audited Estelline in 1999 and 2003, finding in the earlier instance that the town owed the state $15,025 in excess traffic fines. Since 1999, state records show that eight towns have been audited by the state and were found to have underpaid under the speed-trap law.

The most notorious is Kendleton, a town of 500 southwest of Houston that operated a speed trap on U.S. 59 for more than 20 years. In a series of audits, the comptroller's office found the town failed to pay more than $1.6 million in excess highway fines through the 1990s. Kendleton subsequently declared bankruptcy and disbanded its police force.

R.J. DeSilva, the comptroller's spokesman, said the state's speed-trap law is considered a success. "Compliance is high and the number of towns we're looking at is pretty small," he said. Were Estelline 25 miles to the northeast, on the other side of the Red River's Prairie Dog Town Fork in Oklahoma, it would face a more explicit speed-trap law. Since 2003, Oklahoma officials have had the power to stop local police departments from enforcing traffic laws on state and federal highways if the town derives more than 50 percent of its operating revenue from moving violations.

Late last year, Oklahoma officials designated three towns as official speed traps and shut down their highway operations for at least six months. One, Moffett, declared bankruptcy within six weeks. Estelline's detractors, who curse it on the Internet as a "Texas-sized speed trap" or worse, no doubt would like to see the town face a similar fate.

"What a long, strange and beautiful trip it was," wrote one, Sonny Stone of Ontario, Canada, musing about a cross-country drive. "The only serious problem was with a traffic cop in Estelline."
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#7 Consumer Comment


AUTHOR: mr rik - (USA)

in a good radar detector. 
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#8 Author of original report

The Biggest Little Speed Trap in Texas

AUTHOR: anonymous - (USA)

The issue is a 'City' of less than 200 people relying on all the revenue from traffic fines to operate.
Travelers are the victims. The trip from Dallas to Denver takes you through this small town.
The town is extremely small and is situated on a four lane highway. When you over hear a City
member tell the Police Officer..."Make me some money...get out their and make me some money.
AAA has listed this town as a SPEED TRAP for the past 25 years in a row. The speed limit suddenly
drops from 70 mph to 50 mph. The town is only a few blocks long and is near the Red River.
The Biggest Little Speed Trap in Texas

Travelers from the European Union are taken immediately before the municipal judge.
70 in a 50 can set you back $200.00 and is due immediately if you are here on Holiday.
The British Couple I spoke with were traveling in a rental car. Speed control set to 70 mph
and were taken before the municipal judge working out of a small trailer.

When traveling south you encounter a gradual slope that the Police Officer uses to his advantage.
This slope limits your visibility to see what is up ahead on the horizon. Before you have time to slow down. You are being pulled over. This town is bringing in approximately $250,000 to $300, 000 from traffic fine revenue. The 'Robin Hood' mentality is prevalent...Why you may ask...Simple. The 'City' funds the 'Estelline Outdoor Entertainment Association' 

The town has been under investigation numerous times and in the past has seen an extremely high
turn over of Police Officers. Why the high turnover? Officers refuse to be told to arrest or issue citations to locals that speak out against the Mayor, Judge or City Council. What we have here is a one man police force that is run by the City Council.

The town has no jail, no schools, no community development e.g. Recreation or playgrounds and       subcontracts its refuse collection to neighboring city Memphis, Texas (15 miles North)

The town has two liquor stores in the only 'wet' town in all of Hall County, Texas.

Many say that is why the city incorporated in the 80's to lower taxes and open the door for the liquor stores to operate in a dry county.

*The main duty of the police officer is to write speeding tickets to fill city coffers.

*SOURCE: Wikipedia
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#9 Consumer Comment

Easy fix

AUTHOR: Chef - (U.S.A.)


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