On July 2, Northwood City council voted 6-1 against renewing contract negotiations with a company that provides the city’s speed van, a mobile vehicle that issues citations to motorists for speeding.
But at a meeting Aug. 27, Police Chief Tom Cairl made a pitch to continue negotiations with Redflex Safety Solutions, of Arizona, to continue providing a van equipped with a camera that targets Northwood streets with a high incidence of speeding.
The contract on the speed van expires in January.
The city also has stationary speed and red light photo enforcement cameras that have been installed at the intersections of Lemoyne and Woodville roads and Oregon and Wales roads since 2005. The city is also negotiating with Redflex to renew its contract on the stationary cameras.
The city’s revenue from the speed van and stationary cameras was $65,189 in 2007, and $48,455 in 2008, Finance Director Toby Schroyer told The Press last Thursday.
Councilman Mike Myers said at the Aug. 27 meeting that council will be taking away an effective tool from the police department in enforcing traffic violations by discontinuing the speed van.
“It’s reduced speeding violations and accidents,” said Myers, who was the lone vote against eliminating the speed van on July 2.
“I don’t think that’s council’s job - to take tools away from department heads. That’s exactly what we did. It’s no different from telling the streets department we’re taking a tow truck or dump truck away.”
Cairl said the proposals from Redflex on the stationary cameras have been worse since the company was informed that the city was eliminating the speed van.
The company now wants to charge the city $1,000 per approach per month for maintenance of the cameras and sensors. Currently, there is no charge.
The first contract with the company that included the speed van was best, he said.
By eliminating the speed van, the city is removing an option that deters accidents in the city, he said.
“Plus, we use it for public relations in the neighborhood. Without that, we might have more accidents possibly in some of these intersections,” said Cairl.
The city’s accident rate has dropped as a result of the speed van and stationary cameras, he said.
“Obviously, it’s been working,” he said. “The speed van has been beneficial.”
Councilman Dave Gallaher said he felt “the tail is wagging the dog here a little bit.”
“If we walk away from this completely, and decide not to sign the contract, then what’s their net gain?”
“Nothing,” said Cairl.
“Exactly,” said Gallaher. “So they keep coming back, giving us proposals that offer less incentive. If it’s a tool you need, I will certainly listen. But it’s almost like blackmail. I’m not one to respond very well to that.”
Council, he added, should be looking at “what’s in the best interests of the city.”
“I’m not sure we want to bring the numbers of this situation into the equation until we make the decision on whether or not it’s good for the city. I just have a hard time going to the residents after hearing we can actually make money on this and telling them we’re doing it for safety. If we’re doing it for safety, let’s do it in spite of what it costs. Not because of what we’re making. That’s my biggest issue,” said Gallaher.
“It is a crime deterrent, the best thing for the city,” said Myers. “The chief talked about that before he talked about any numbers.”
“I question whether the city wants to do business with a company that would virtually throw this in our face,” said Councilman Ed Schimmel. “After the last meeting, I already came to terms that the cameras were probably going to stay. I was going to accept that. But after hearing the way these people came back to us, they pretty much just slapped us in the face.”
“I agree,” said Councilman Connie Hughes. “I think we’re being strong armed here. You’d think they’d come back with a better offer.”
The matter was referred to the safety committee for further discussion.