As traffic cameras capture smiling faces and various hand gestures in Red Bank, officials continue to question Mayor Monty Millard's directive to disconnect the devices for good.
"We've got to do our homework before we take them down," Vice Mayor Greg Jones said. "I don't think we've done that yet. It will cost something, and we'll have to deal with the safety issue."
During his inaugural speech, Millard asked City Manager Chris Dorsey to cancel a 12-year contract with American Traffic Solutions, the company that provides the city with three sets of cameras and a speed van.
But officials involved in the negotiations fear that Red Bank may have to pay a six-figure penalty for breaking the contract, a move that won't be politically palatable to a city that spent $172,724 in reserve funds to balance the budget without a tax increase last summer.
The first time Red Bank can leave the contract without financial penalty is 2013, but other factors are in play. Millard, the lone opposing vote to the contract extension the city reached in January with American Traffic, runs for re-election in 2012.
"I do what the commissioners want, but if the ballpark number's out of the realm of possibility, we'll have to wait," Dorsey said. "Any large number will be detrimental to us."
Dorsey's reluctance to aggressively break the contract underscores miscommunication between him and Millard, who made his pitch to turn off the cameras on Nov. 16.
Late last week, the mayor said he urged Dorsey to write a letter to American Traffic officials about leaving the contract, but Dorsey said he had no knowledge of that request. No such letter was sent, he said.
Millard now says the city is waiting for "verbal communication" from American Traffic before proceeding further. He said he's anxious to hear something, considering that "20 to 25 business owners up and down Dayton Boulevard" told him the cameras were "killing them."
"It may well be one day next week before we get any information," he said. "We need it."
Dorsey said the city may end the red-light infractions caught by cameras, but keep cameras for speeding tickets at the city's three major intersections.
Dorsey staunchly defended traffic cameras before Election Day, but now that at least two commissioners want them gone, he's going along with their wishes.
"Sometimes I feel like an attorney," he said. "I still think the traffic cameras do some good, but if the commissioners want to get rid of them, I'll proceed down that road."
Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6610.