Columbus traffic cam to be taken offline March 18, 2009
Neal Wagner

A traffic camera at the intersection of 14th Avenue North and Waterworks Road soon will snap its final photo of passing motorists, the Columbus City Council decided Tuesday. The decision to eliminate traffic cameras in the city came a week after the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation banning the traffic monitoring devices statewide.
The bill was enacted as a law Monday, after it was signed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
“The (state) Legislature has passed a bill banning the cameras,” Smith said. “I think the governor signed the bill requiring all the cameras in the state to be banned, so the question is do we wait until we get a notice to take the camera down, or do we go ahead and discontinue the use of it?”
“I suggest we discontinue using it immediately,” Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart quickly proposed and Ward 3 Councilman Gene Coleman seconded the motion.
Stewart said he wanted the camera taken offline as soon as possible, but City Attorney Jeff Turnage said he first must examine a contract between the city and Redflex, the company which owns and installed cameras leased to the city.
“The final date of the camera’s operation is kind of up in the air right now,” Columbus Chief Financial Officer Mike Bernsen said. “Jeff will have to examine the contract and see if there is an early termination clause, which I’m sure there is.”
Although Columbus and Jackson are the only two cities in the state using traffic cameras; Tupelo, Natchez, Southaven and McComb earlier considered using them.
Since it was installed last summer, the camera photographed drivers who ran the traffic light in the central Columbus neighborhood. As of this morning, the camera had generated more than $53,000 in traffic ticket revenue for the city, said Bernsen.
However, the Columbus Police Department will mail its final traffic camera-related ticket after the camera is taken offline.
“Please let me know the date and time you talk with Charlie, so I can stop monitoring the camera,” Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John said, referring to Charlie Buckles, an official with Redflex.
Although the camera is nearing its final days, all outstanding traffic camera tickets still must be paid, St. John added.
In other business, the council:
n Voted unanimously to partially fund an engineering and environmental study of three pieces of land selected to be considered for the Columbus-Lowndes Recreational Authority’s multi-purpose sportsplex.

The study will determine an approximate cost of building the sportsplex on each piece of land, which includes property near the Columbus Riverwalk, the city’s Burns Bottom area near the Hitching Lot Farmers Market and a piece of land near the Highway 82 Macon-Meridian exit.
The study’s $15,000 price tag was evenly split between the City Council and the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors voted March 13 to fund the studies.
Once the studies are completed in about a month, CLRA officials will present the findings and approximate costs of building on the properties to the two government boards.
The studies will begin in about a week, said CLRA Executive Director Roger Short.
n Passed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to apply for federal stimulus funds to be distributed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
MDOT will distribute about $24 million in federal stimulus funds to cities throughout the state, explained City Engineer Kevin Stafford. Because the city must submit for MDOT approval a prioritized list of roads to be paved with the funds, Stafford was unsure how much funding Columbus would receive.
“There are about $4 million worth of streets on the list we are going to submit to MDOT,” Stafford said. “Obviously, we aren’t going to get all of them funded, but it will be up to MDOT to decide which ones will be included.”
Streets on the list submitted to MDOT include Eighth Street North, Military Road and Seventh Street North.
n Recognized Columbus resident Sherilyn Richardson, CPD Lt. Keith Worshaim, CPD Lt. Carroll Culpepper and CPD officer Rhonda Sanders for helping to detain a man charged with assaulting Culpepper.
Clarence Dale Washington, 45, of 1906 Sixth Ave. N., was arrested Dec. 19 and charged with punching Culpepper in the face after the officer asked Washington to leave the Columbus Municipal Complex front lobby.
After the incident, Richardson, Worshaim, Culpepper and Sanders then restrained the suspect until he was taken into custody.
“We just want to show our appreciation to all of you for your performance during that incident,” St. John told the officers. “Especially you, Ms. Richardson, as a public citizen.”
n Declared April 18 Columbus Day of Community Service.
The declaration came at the request of local resident Reed Mackay, who has organized an April 18 cleanup day at Friendship Cemetery.
Mackay’s group will work from about 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m. to clean trash from the large cemetery, he said.

Neal Wagner is a Staff Reporter for The Commercial Dispatch.