Council gives green light to traffic cameras

1/17/2007 5:19:41 AM
Daily Journal

Daily Journal

TUPELO - A divided City Council forged ahead with plans to install cameras to catch red-light runners despite concerns raised about their effectiveness.

Smith Heavner of Ward 3 and Mike Bryan of Ward 6 were the only council members to vote against the measure, citing a need to further study the issue before proceeding with the program. The vote was 7-2 to pass an ordiance to allow the cameras to be installed.

Heavner isn't opposed to the cameras, he said, but felt the council didn't gather enough information to make an intelligent decision. And Bryan urged leaders to test other ways to reduce red-light violations before installing cameras. He said lengthening the city's 3-second yellow light times could solve the problem without having to ticket drivers.

Both men also cited conflicting reports about the cameras' effectiveness - some that show the devices reduce accidents, others that show they increase them. Bryan and Heavner asked to table the decision.

But Mayor Ed Neelly, a strong proponent of the idea, disagreed, saying "you are either in favor of running red lights or you are opposed to running red lights." He listed numerous cities, including Jackson, Tenn., in which the programs worked well and insisted that Tupelo could have similar results.

Other council members agreed, including president Dick Hill, who said the cameras' purpose is to promote safety and not to generate revenue from citations.

The vote allows the company to enter into negotiations with American Traffic Solutions, which runs a red-light camera program and whose representative Bill Kroske was in Tupelo last week. ATS now likely will conduct a study of the city's 86 intersections and determine which ones could benefit from camera monitoring.

Neelly said about 10 intersections probably would be outfitted with cameras.

The city has not entered into a contract with ATS, which would require a subsequent vote.

"We're not doing anything tonight that we can't undo," Hill said.

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