published Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Red Bank to shutter traffic cameras

In this file photo, signs posted on Dayton Boulevard as well as others throughout Red Bank, Tenn., inform motorists that cameras are used in traffic law enforcement.
In this file photo, signs posted on Dayton Boulevard as well as others throughout Red Bank, Tenn., inform motorists that cameras are used in traffic law enforcement.
Photo by Dan Henry.

HOW THEY VOTED

For taking down cameras:

• Mayor Monty Millard

• Vice Mayor John Roberts

• Commissioner Ken Welch

• Commissioner Floy Pierce

Against:

• Commissioner Ruth Jeno

After six years, Red Bank has given its traffic cameras the red light.

Minutes after a handful of residents spoke out Tuesday against how the cameras have hurt the city's image and businesses, Red Bank commissioners voted 4-1 to ax the city's four traffic cameras, which cite motorists who speed and run red lights at the city's busiest intersections along the city's main artery, Dayton Boulevard.

The lone holdout for keeping the cameras was Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who said that the cameras' effect on safety was more important than their impact on business or city coffers.

"I don't feel like that we can afford to hire more police officers to patrol Dayton Boulevard," she said. "The majority of citizens in Red Bank have asked me to vote to keep the cameras and keep the police officers off Dayton Boulevard and in our neighborhoods, because crime is rising."

The vote allowed Mayor Monty Millard to make good on a campaign promise that he had so far been unable to fulfill because of the contract the city had with American Traffic Services, the Arizona-based company that runs the program.

"I think it will show a new beginning for Red Bank," Millard said. "We're doing everything we can to be friendly and attract businesses."

The cameras, currently located in a speed van and three intersections on Dayton Boulevard will continue photo-enforcement until January, but the city had to give American Traffic Services 90-days notice of their decision.

A representative of American Traffic Service attended the meeting and had prepared a point-by-point presentation with reasons the city should consider keeping the cameras, but Millard did not allow him to speak since the City Charter only allows Red Bank residents to speak in meetings.

The man declined to comment after the meeting.

Before the vote, several city citizens decried how the cameras had, in the words of resident Paul McGinnis, made visitors "avoid Red Bank like the plague."

"I have trouble getting people to come to Red Bank to play baseball because of the cameras," said McGinnis, who serves on the board of Red Bank Dixie Youth Baseball. "Do I think that's silly? Yes. But the bottom line is that the cameras are hurting the traffic count in Red Bank."

Other residents said the cameras simply had taken law enforcement too far.

"I'm tired of living underneath the spy in the sky," said resident Harold Clark.

But others said that the cameras performed a vital service.

"We need them to help safety. You only get a ticket if you break the law," said resident Charlotte Thompson after the meeting. "Chattanooga has way more cameras than us, and people do not pitch a fit about them."

Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol did not have data readily available showing how the number of traffic accidents have been impacted by Red Bank's auto-enforcement, but said he was in the process of obtaining statistics from the state.

Commissioner Ken Welch, who works as a surgical nurse at Erlanger hospital, said the decision was difficult for him.

"I see a lot of trauma from accidents, so that was hard. But it seems like other cities are not seeing a big spike in accidents once they get rid of their cameras. And we still have the option to go back if we have to. I don't want to -- but we can."

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