By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen City Council almost put the brakes on a contract and ordinance to have a camera issue tickets for drivers who go through red lights.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of a resolution for the city manager to enter into a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., for a photographic traffic signal enforcement system – cameras that take photographs of drivers who go through red lights.
Council members Billy Workman, Juan Rivera and Kenny Wells voted against the resolution. Workman asked that the item, placed on the consent agenda, be discussed rather than passed in the lump sum of the 11 other consent agenda items.
The dissenting council members asked questions about the cost to the city and whether the agreement with the company would be fair. Rivera said he wished the representative from Redflex was at the meeting to answer questions and clarify parts of the contract. The contract calls for a five-year agreement; Rivera wanted to know if it could be reduced to one year as a trial period.
Former Councilman Dick Young spoke as a resident against the cameras as traffic signal enforcement.
"Several states have outlawed this," Young said.
He said he worried that since the revenue of the citations pays for the company to maintain the equipment, then if red light runners are reduced, there would be no money to pay the contractor.
Killeen Police Department Capt. Lee Caufield said taxpayer money would not be used to support this program. He also addressed Young's concerns about the effectiveness of the system.
"This is a tool," Caufield said.
He said the camera does not count it as a red light run unless the driver exits the intersection during the red light. Caufield also noted that there is a review process. He said the overall goal is to get drivers in the mindset to not drive through intersections during red lights.
"It induces the concept of behavior change," Caufield said.
The camera takes a picture of a vehicle as it approaches the intersection, as it is going through the intersection and after it is through the intersection. The final photograph shows the license plate so a citation can be sent to the vehicle's owner.
Young offered other solutions to reduce the number of accidents caused by drivers running red lights, such as increasing the length of the yellow lights to reduce the number of drivers who run red lights and ultimately the number of accidents and injuries.
At last week's council workshop, Caufield delivered a presentation about the system. At that workshop, Caufield listed the three intersections in Killeen with the most accidents caused by drivers running red lights.
The intersection of East Central Texas Expressway and East Stan Schlueter Loop had the most accidents last year with 58 and the most so far this year with 29. Second is East Central Texas Expressway and South W.S. Young Drive with 37 accidents last year and 28 so far this year. Fort Hood Street and Business Highway 190 was third with 24 accidents last year and 23 so far this year.
He also cited statistics from Plano, where the city installed red-light cameras at five intersections. From November 2006 to February 2007 there was a 57 percent decrease in accidents at those five intersections. Additionally, there was an 80 percent decrease in accidents overall.
Caufield received a 5-1 thumbs-up from the council at the workshop to proceed with drafting an ordinance and arranging an agreement with Redflex.
He pushed for the passage with a sense of urgency because recent state legislation is more restrictive on how the funds are used. Senate Bill 1119 goes into effect Sept. 1.
Young also accused the city staff of bringing things to the council for passage in "the 11th hour," thus not giving council adequate time to review the issues.
Caufield noted that he delivered the same presentation to the city's Transportation Committee in December 2006, when the committee recommended approval to the full council. He also delivered the same presentation to the council at a workshop several months ago. And he delivered the presentation at last week's workshop with a representative from Redflex present to answer questions.
The council voted 6-0 in favor of the ordinance that governs the red light camera system because it had already authorized the city manager to enter an agreement with Redflex and City Attorney Kathy Davis said it would put the city in an awkward position to enter a contract for services with no ordinance making it legal.
In other business, the council voted 5-1 in favor of changes to a land disturbance ordinance. Workman was the dissenting vote after a heated debate.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550