By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted unanimously to remove the “speed van” from its contract with the company that installed red-light cameras.
Board members took the action during their March 12 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Al Bell.
On Dec. 8, 2009, the board entered into a Professional Services Agreement with American Traffic Solutions Inc. The agreement provides:
(1) cameras on the north and south sides of four intersections on Highway 51 that record red-light violations by motorists; and
(2) a vehicle containing a camera and other equipment to issue tickets for speed violations.
A resolution adopted at the March 12 meeting states that the agreement’s “most significant benefit” to the city and its residents has been a reduction in accidents at the covered intersections on the highway.
But it notes that the city continues to receive complaints regarding the speed-violation vehicle and has not seen a “meaningful decrease” in traffic speeds as a result of its use.
The agreement extends for 12 years from July 23, 2010 – the date on which the first ticket was issued under it. But it also has “termination options” every four years after that date.
If the board intends to change all or part of the agreement, it must give the company 90 days’ notice prior to each four-year anniversary date.
City Finance Director John Trusty said that, based on revenue “collections” through January, the speed van will generate only about $15,000 for the city in the current fiscal year. But the “vendor” will receive approximately $60,000.
He said the administration believes residents are “better served” by having the city’s police officers deal with speeding violations.
In response to a question by Alderman Mike Caruthers, Trusty said the red-light cameras are projected to generate $110,000 for the city and $279,000 for the “contractor” during this fiscal year.
Caruthers then offered a motion, which was seconded by McGhee, to terminate the entire agreement. But Alderman Bethany Huffman said that might put some of the police officers and residents “in jeopardy.”
City Manager Ed Haley said he and Trusty met recently with City Judge Wilson Wages and discussed several things, including the red-light cameras.
He said Wages told them that, in at least two cases, the cameras have identified vehicles that were involved in crimes in the city.
Public Safety Director Gary Graves told the board that the police department has video footage of motorists running red lights and causing accidents.
Alderman Don Lowry said the speed van “needs to go,” but he is opposed to removing the red-light cameras. He believes they have “saved many lives” in the city, because they have slowed down or stopped many motorists from running red lights.
But Caruthers said he is concerned about the “perception” that other people have of Millington. Citing a letter that the board received from Wages, he said Tipton County residents try to avoid the city, because they consider it a “speed trap.”
“My wife won’t drive on Highway 51,” he noted, “because she doesn’t like the red-light cameras.”
Alderman Larry Dagen agreed with Caruthers that outsiders’ “impression” of Millington is “very negative.” But he said the cameras do not stop red-light violations, because motorists are unaware that they exist.
When Trusty said there is “zero” cost to the city to have the cameras in place, McGhee withdrew his second to Caruthers’ motion.
By Bill Short