By Mac McLean Reporter / Bristol Herald Courier Published: April 10, 2009 BLUFF CITY, Tenn. – If you’re one of those drivers who likes speeding down U.S. 11E, get ready to smile for the camera. In a 4-1 vote Thursday, Bluff City’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved an ordinance allowing the city to install traffic enforcement cameras on its roads and use them to issue civil citations for traffic violations. Alderman Melvin Carrier voted against the ordinance. “I know what the people of Bluff City want, and I know what they don’t want,” Carrier said. “They don’t want the cameras.” Mayor Todd Malone said the city will use the new ordinance, which is effective immediately, to install traffic cameras on U.S. 11E. Drivers caught speeding by the cameras will have to pay a $50 civil fine and $45 in court costs, according to the ordinance. “The intent [behind these cameras] is not revenue,” Malone said at Thursday’s meeting. “The intent is to change people’s driving habits on U.S. 11E.” When the board started talking about the cameras in December, Police Chief David Nelson said his officers used a portable trailer to monitor how fast drivers were traveling on the city’s 3.8-mile-long section of U.S. 11E. More than half of the vehicles, 53 percent, were doing more than 5 miles per hour above the speed limit, Nelson said in December, adding that about 36,000 vehicles travel that 3.6-mile-stretch of highway each day. Thursday’s vote is the most recent in a series of steps the board has taken to get the speeding cameras installed. Now, board members must formally award a contract to a traffic camera operator before they can start using the devices on the city’s highways. They have solicited bids from a few companies, including American Traffic Systems, an Arizona-based supplier of the cameras. But not everyone is thrilled with the idea of installing traffic cameras. At Thursday’s meeting, Robert Miller grilled board members on their motives for installing the cameras and said he doubted it was for safety alone. “Is the city of Bluff City turning to these speed cameras because of the downturn in the economy?” asked Miller, who is one of five people seeking a spot on the board in the May 19 election. Miller also questioned whether the city would have to pay some of the costs associated with the cameras if they didn’t produce a certain amount of revenue. Malone answered by saying there were no minimum amounts in a draft contract that American Traffic Systems presented to the city as part of its bid. If it moves forward with the plan, Bluff City would become the second locality in the Tri-Cities to use speed cameras to handle traffic enforcement. Mount Carmel, Tenn., started using speed cameras along a 2-mile-long stretch of U.S. 11W on April 1, 2008, said Jeff Jackson, the city’s police chief. Between April 1 and Dec. 31, Jackson said, those cameras issued 3,949 citations for speeding and brought in $101,401 in fines and court costs. “Our major purpose in this whole thing was to slow people down,” Jackson said, adding there are six stop-sign intersections along that stretch of U.S. 11W that were plagued with accidents before the city started using the cameras. Most of the wrecks were caused when a vehicle failed to come to a complete stop and fully yield the right-of-way at one of the stop signs, Jackson said. But the speeds drivers did as they went down the main highway only made the accidents worse, he said, adding the city had three traffic fatalities in 2008. Mount Carmel installed the cameras in March 2008 and started using them in April 2008. Almost instantly, Jackson got the results he wanted. Mount Carmel’s total number of accidents dropped from 95 in 2007 to 61 in 2008, while those with injuries dropped from 26 in 2007 to 17 in 2008. “It was a very successful year,” Jackson said. “I’m not sure I’ve heard of a city that hasn’t had a reduction in accidents because of [the speed cameras.]” | (276) 645-2518