Tupelo one step closer to camera enforcement

2/6/2007 6:57:32 AM
Daily Journal

By Emily Le Coz
Daily Journal

TUPELO - City leaders are set to approve a contract today with American Traffic Solutions to install and maintain cameras at intersections with red-light running problems.

The five-year contract includes a free analysis of city intersections to determine which ones need enforcement and outlines three different payment plans. Mayor Ed Neelly recommended the plan that would give ATS $40 of every $75 civil citation paid to the city.

If Tupelo has the same results as Jackson, Tenn., which has four ATS-monitored intersections and collects 70 percent of the roughly 500 citations it issues monthly, the city potentially could collect $147,000 a year.

The contract also allows Tupelo to cancel its commitment after one year if the city is unhappy or to stop at any time if future legislative action renders camera enforcement illegal in Mississippi. That already nearly happened this year after state Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson, proposed a bill Jan. 15 to ban the procedure. That attempt, however, died in committee one week ago.

Some City Council members opposed signing a contract without first exploring offers from other camera vendors. Bill Martin, of Ward 5, warned against rushing into things, saying the last few times the council took swift action without examining all possibilities it got into trouble.

Neelly disagreed: "Well, if we were getting married, it'd be one thing," he said. "But there's nothing we're doing that we can't get out of" after one year.

Neelly and others, including Tupelo Water & Light manager Johnny Timmons, said that Jackson, Tenn., went through a lengthy selection process last year and ultimately chose ATS. They said Tupelo should follow Jackson's lead.

But Ward 2 councilman Thomas Bonds worried the city might have to pay up to $10,000 to integrate ATS software with its court system to process the citations, as suggested by the contract.

"I was told the city would have to pay nothing," Bonds said.

City attorney Guy Mitchell explained the fee applies only if the city can't perform the integration itself and if ATS has to do it. In the end, the council agreed it would amend the contract so that the maximum amount paid would not exceed $2,000. ATS will either accept this or suggest another amount.

Contact Daily Journal city reporter Emily Le Coz @ 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 2/6/2007 6:00:00 AM, section A , page 1