Red light cameras staying put for now

The city’s controversial red light cameras won’t be going away anytime soon.

Last week the City Council extended the contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) through this November.

Last November council members extended the expiring contract until this February so an investigation into a few police department leaders’ questionable interactions with ATS was completed. (The Herald covered that story extensively.) They were later cleared of any ethical violations.

Although the new contract extension expires this November, the city may opt out at any time. Doing so, however, could be an expensive proposition, officials say. The camera equipment is owned by ATS and would be removed if the contract is terminated. To continue the red light program, a new vendor would need to be selected and  new equipment installed.

“Switching companies probably would be a major hassle,” said Councilman Sid Roberts.

The issue of signal timing was also brought up at the meeting. Some critics claim the city shortened the yellow light timing to catch more violators.

Police Chief Steve Jensen denied that, saying they comply with uniform traffic codes.

“There’s a misconception that the city shortened the yellow light and that’s blatantly a falsehood,” he said.

Red light cameras brought in $2.2 million in fiscal year 2011.

City officials said of the violations that are caught by red light cameras, ATS rejects about 40 percent of them. Of the remaining violations, the police department said it rejects another 35 percent.

“We are looking at this very hard and we understand the difficulties that many people have with the whole idea of these devices,” Councilman Van AuBuchon said.

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