published Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Red Bank leaders divided on cameras


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Nov 16, 2010 Former Red Bank mayor Joe Glasscock holds a up sign he took from an intersection concerning the city's traffic cameras during his last meeting as mayor on Tuesday. City Manager Chris Dorsey, left, City Attorney Arnold Stulce, Jr. and new mayor Monty Millard look at the sign. The city recently signed a 12-year contract extension in January.

Red Bank Mayor Monty Millard would love to take down the city's traffic cameras, but transforming a message into policy is more complicated than saying you want it done -- and almost assuredly more expensive.

Three minutes into his inaugural speech Tuesday evening, Millard was playing familiar political tunes, focusing on "our city's positive assets" and praising "a very favorable property tax rate."

Then, the loud note that got people's attention.

"Tonight I am asking [City Manager] Chris Dorsey to determine our option for the immediate removal of the red-light cameras and the speed van," he said, pausing for applause that never came. "This will send a strong and unmistakable message that we want people to come to and through our city."

In January, Millard was the only commissioner out of five to vote against a 12-year contract extension with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that supplies Red Bank's traffic cameras. He's aware of the constitutional arguments, but he said he cringes when he hears out-of-towners and "talk radio" blasting the city's most controversial piece of technology.

"I feel more strongly about our business owners who live and die by the success they have in Red Bank," Millard said. "It's killing us."

According to the deal between Red Bank and American Traffic, either party can abandon the contract without financial penalty on each three-year anniversary of its signing -- 2013, 2016, 2019 or 2022.

But officials close to the deal said Red Bank may face a stiff fee if the city pulls out any earlier.

American Traffic representatives wouldn't say what the fee might be, and Red Bank officials said they don't know what it is either. As the deal stands, the company gets between 45 percent and 63 percent of the monthly revenues, depending on how many tickets are collected.

During the 2008-09 fiscal year, Red Bank collected more than $579,000 from the cameras, and $357,070 went to American Traffic Solutions. Most of the remaining $222,105 funded four city traffic employees and also helped prop up the city budget.

The final figure for straight "camera revenue" was $32,898, according to Dorsey.

The contract stipulates dispute resolution or litigation in a Hamilton County court in the event of a disagreement.

After his inaugural speech, Millard showed a limited knowledge of the contract and said "someone else" besides Dorsey told him the city could leave it.

"I don't know how much it would cost to break that contract," Millard said.

At least one commissioner doesn't think Millard is making any financial sense.

"Whatever we have to pay the camera company will be expensive and, without the camera revenue, we're going to have to have a tax increase," Commissioner Ruth Jeno said. "I don't know what Monty was doing, and I don't think he did, either."

Red Bank used $172,724 from its reserve funds to balance this year's budget without a tax increase.

Commissioners will discuss their options during a Dec. 7 agenda session, and an American Traffic Solutions representative may be present, city officials said.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

SQUARE-OFF OVER CAMERAS

Red Bank's governing board is divided on traffic cameras, with two supporting surveillance and two citing "negative publicity" from the cameras. Commissioner Floy Pierce voted for a 12-year extension, but recently showed signs of hedging.

Pro-camera

* Commissioner Ruth Jeno

"I'm not saying they don't hurt some businesses, but 98 percent of the people I talk to are 100 percent behind the cameras."

* Vice Mayor Greg Jones

"I stand by my vote. If my family is safer at those intersections, I think that's still a positive thing."

Swing vote

* Commissioner Floy Pierce

"I feel like if it's going to hurt our city and our citizens in a way that would keep revenues out, my strong feeling is that it needs to be revisited."

Anti-camera

* Mayor Monty Millard

"If it was such a great deal, why don't Signal Mountain, East Ridge and Collegedale have them? They want people to shop in their businesses and feel comfortable coming into their town."

* Commissioner John Roberts

"If they just put a vacant car with a dummy in there, I guarantee people would stop and slow down at a red light."

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Have you ever been caught by a red-light camera?

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Allison12 said...

Ruth Jeno is a ding bat, balancing a budget on traffic ticket revenue, that is sporatic. Yep, Red Bank you still got some to get rid of.

November 20, 2010 at 12:14 a.m.
Johnnie5000 said...

Ruth Jeno neglected to mention the fact that the only "people" she talks to are a Vice Mayor Greg Jones and a tree stump.

Go ahead, kill Red Bank off altogether. Once all the lawsuits against Red Bank are either lost or settled out of court, the city will be bankrupt and begging to be annexed by Chattanooga.

November 20, 2010 at 12:41 a.m.
sunnydelight said...

Ruth Jeno needs to talk to some of my Dayton Blvd customers . I cannot remember one who is not against the cameras. These people , like me , never had a ticket. They just don't like the cameras. The cameras make people do stupid things at the red lights . Just sit and watch the Ashland Terrace traffic try to decide whether or not to turn right on red . It makes people uncomfortable. Yes they do avoid downtown Red Bank when possible.

November 20, 2010 at 5:14 a.m.
dave said...

I for one grew up in Red Bank and have strong ties with it...but I avoid Red Bank like the plague. The reason: Traffic Cams. I have never been ticketed by one, try to follow the traffic laws and I am one of those "stupid" people who do dumb things at Red Lights in Red Bank...not knowing if it is OK to still turn right on red..or if the camera will "catch" me and I will be ticketed for doing something absolutely legal! (I know what the "canned" response is but who can believe them?) When I go to Red Bank today all I see is a small piece of it's former glory, when it had a thriving business sector. If you grew up there you remember Redfords,Bolton's barber shop and Red Bank Hardware. Alvin Kennemer was a hoot! While removing the traffic cams will not bring back the "old" Red Bank it certainly would be a start. I would listen to the few merchants you have left...and those that might frequent there if they (the cameras) were removed.

November 20, 2010 at 10:38 a.m.
LibDem said...

You gotta love people who plan their lives around traffic cameras. I wonder if watching paint dry or grass grow creates scheduling conflicts.

November 20, 2010 at 11:11 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Wonder if any campaign money from the huge camera firm, living off what used to be a law enforcement jobs came to TN?

November 20, 2010 at 11:44 a.m.
Obie1 said...

The fact that people don't like getting a ticket or having their driving behavior hampered, doesn't make running a red light or speeding any less dangerous. It is illegal and shouldn't be encouraged…especially by our community leaders - it's bad form and embarrassing for the city.

November 20, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.
Allison12 said...

Joe Glasscock clearly misses the point. The businesses in Red Bank get it. How in the world did Red Bank ever get get these ding bats that do not understand very simple retail principals. If customers do not feel comfortable in an environment, they do not return.

November 20, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.
frankfeeny said...

Commissioner Pierce,

I have lived in Red Bank since 1984, and have been ticketed twice by those cameras, and I say, "Good!" I am a better driver because of it. (Coasting through on a right turn had become a habit.) You will remember we have had fatalities at both intersections. Maybe the cameras might stop a fatality (or horrible injury) in the future. No one has the right to run a red light.

Local government can use the revenue. Let's renegotiate to get a higher percentage.

November 20, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.
sunnydelight said...

Dave knows exactly what I am talking about. People know what is expected of them when turning right on red. We do it every day and do it correctly without hesitation. No rolling stops. No long hesitation or false starts. We smoothly make the same manouver repetedly .Then We drive through Red Bank. Suddenly we feel as if the rules have changed but question our own good judgement . The right on red law suddenly becomes confusing by camera standards. Our movements become jerky .We hesitate. We feel uncomfortable. Then we decide . We're not coming back here. It's not worth it.

November 20, 2010 at 6:26 p.m.
Beamis said...

Avoid the place because of the cameras and the van. If I have to drive through I feel uncomfortable and annoyed. Taking all of my business to Hixson and elsewhere.

November 20, 2010 at 7:14 p.m.
William18 said...

Mayor Millard should read some of the studies that have been done regarding the reduction in intersection collisions that result from the use of red-light camera enforcement. Generally, the use of red-light cameras reduces collisions by about 30%. For example, a study done by the Kansas City Star (MO) newspaper found that for intersections where red-light cameras were installed collisions overall declined by 26%, collisions resulting in injury declined by 42%, and collisions caused by drivers running red lights declined by 67%.

November 22, 2010 at 4:39 p.m.
iseeyou said...

Greg Jones is absolutely right - you have to do everything in your power to make the intersections safe. If people are against this technology, they need to figure out a different way to enforce the law.

November 22, 2010 at 6:27 p.m.

I can understand normal drivers being afraid of getting caught that one time they were being careless, but that is true with our without the camera - the camera is most effective at stopping the habitual red light runner or speeder who always think they will get away with it because they don't see a cop to catch them, once they KNOW they will get caught on camera EVERY time they WILL adjust their habits and THAT will save lives.

November 22, 2010 at 9:26 p.m.
ByTheSea said...

Speaking for myself, I can assure you that the cameras have changed my driving habits. The first time I rolled through a red light to turn right and was ticketed, I paid it and didn't think twice. The second time I did it and was ticketed, it knocked me back on my heels. I don't like paying the fines any more than the next person, so, I changed the way I drive. Haven't had a ticket since. Am the better for it.

November 23, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.
wholovesher said...

It seems like the people who are against red light cameras are only thinking of themselves... getting caught... paying fines. I think that they would be a good thing to keep everyones' families safe when we're out on the road.

November 23, 2010 at 1:32 p.m.
bb12 said...

Who cares where the money goes? If you run a red light, you deserve to fish out the fine. If you don't run red lights, you won't have an issue.

November 23, 2010 at 4:19 p.m.
bugaboo2 said...

I agree with bb12. I really don't care where the money goes either. I say make the fines high enough and people will really watch their driving!

November 24, 2010 at 9:46 a.m.
VOL1972 said...

I hope they recognize how important the cameras are for safety. I think most people recognize the role they play and respect a community that uses them to enforce the laws. Seems silly to me that the few people against the cameras get their voice heard most when it comes to bringing them down.

November 24, 2010 at 10:58 a.m.
freewheel said...

The statistics are being gathered all across the country and it's pointing to the fact that cameras work. It up to the driver to figure out how they work and when they're going to ticket you - where there are cameras I've noticed folks are lot more careful in the intersection. No cameras - two, sometimes three cars haul through on the red light. I see it all the time.

December 1, 2010 at 1:17 a.m.
marctn31 said...

now now red bank has to pay for the high priced harley davidsons @25,000 each and all of the fancy lights and side walks i will go elsewhere to shop.what a rip off ask the post office how many $50.00 money orders they sell a week it will shock you.

December 22, 2010 at 4:09 p.m.
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