Move to rid Zachary of Redflex traffic cameras fails

A move to end an arrangement with a traffic photo-enforcement company died Tuesday in a confusing City Council vote.

Councilmen Brandon Noel and John Coghlan offered a motion that effectively would end an arrangement with Redflex Traffic Systems when its contract expires.

Their motion was to not renew the contract.

Councilmen Tommy Womack, Francis Nezianya and Dan Wallis voted against the motion, but only Nezianya voiced support for the “speed vans” Redflex operates to issue tickets to speeding motorists.

City attorney John Hopewell said the contract has no automatic renewal, meaning the agreement will “end on is own terms” if the council does not vote to approve a new contract.

The system has been effective in producing revenue for the city as well as improving safety, Police Chief David McDavid said.

The contract was signed before McDavid became police chief two years ago.

From his conversations with residents, some are for and some are against the cameras, he said.

The city’s share of the ticket revenue goes into a traffic safety fund. The difficulty of collecting the money is part of the problem with the system.

Unlike a ticket issued by a police officer, the city can collect an outstanding camera citation only through city court, which would not be cost effective, Mayor David Amrhein said.

Approximately $2.5 million in tickets remains unpaid.

Over the course of the five-year contract, $2 million was collected in traffic fines, according to figures provided to McDavid by Redflex representative Lee Buckles.

Buckles said he could not confirm whether the $2 million represented the total receipts or the city’s share of the money.

“But that money doesn’t all belong to the city. If someone gets a $40 ticket, $32.50 goes to Redflex,” Noel said.

Hopewell said Redflex’s share is calculated on a sliding scale: the more tickets issued, the larger the city’s share.

The exact date of the contract’s end also was a subject of debate.

Buckles said the contract ends five years from the “date of installation.”

In the case of movable equipment of the kind used in Zachary, the date refers to when the equipment was “deployed.”

That date was Jan. 30, 2009, which would mean the contract ends Jan. 30, 2014, he said.

The contract does not define “installation date” in the case of movable equipment and only uses the term in reference to nonmovable devices, such as red light cameras, Hopewell said.

Such a discrepancy is a flaw in the contract which can be used against the person who wrote it, he said.

So if the city wants to end the contract on Sept. 22, which is five years from the day the contract was signed, it should be able to do so, he said.