Tonawanda News

January 22, 2014

Traffic camera plan scrutinized

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Redflex’s proposal to install red light cameras in the City of Tonawanda was met with tough questions and criticism Tuesday night at the council’s regular meeting.

A Redflex representative, David Samuel, attended Tuesday’s meeting to answer council members’ questions, including those about the company’s contentious past. Residents and officials who had done research on the company asked Samuel about a bribery scandal in Chicago that was revealed last year.

An outside investigator determined that Redflex bribed a Chicago city traffic official with lavish trips and tickets to the Super Bowl worth thousands of dollars. The company fired an employee and three top executives resigned. Chicago then banned Redflex from competing in its red light camera program. 

“Who’s to say that won’t happen here?” Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jenna Koch asked.

Resident Robert Derner also argued that the company’s practices are not reputable.

“This is a company that you have to take a look at,” he said.

But Samuel argued that the terminations and the hiring of new leadership has corrected the problem, and that the company’s policies prevent bribery from occurring.

“We have done everything possible to make sure what happened in Chicago never happens again,” he said. 

In December, the body approved a resolution allowing for the plans to progress. Under the proposal, the cameras would be installed at three city intersections, but the program has to first be approved by the state legislature. The body would then have to pass another resolution approving the use of the cameras.

Samuel said that signs would be put up at the intersections with the cameras — Niagara and Seymour streets, Delaware and Broad streets and the Twin Cities Memorial Highway at Young Street. There would be a warning period of about 30 days before the ticketing began. 

“You don’t want it to be an ambush,” he said.

A $50 fine would be attached to the license plate and would not add any points to a driver’s license.

Samuel stressed that the program will not cost the city. If there is a deficit in violations and profits at the end of the contract, it will be wiped out, he said.

He also noted that the company does not change yellow light timing to increase its profits.

“It’s unfair to the motorists,” he said. “The timing is set by the Department of Transportation and the City of Tonawanda.”

An informational meeting with Redflex representatives may be held at the end of February.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The council passed a resolution in support of St. Francis school remaining open. Last week, the Buffalo Diocese announced the school would be one of 10 to close at the end of the year. 

“They have been a fixture of this community for more than 100 years, and losing them would be a shame,” Mayor Rick Davis said. “If need be, we as city officials will sit down with the school officials and the diocese to discuss ways to keep St. Francis open.”

• The council discussed a resolution on food trucks for 2014. The proposed resolution states that food trucks must be 100 feet away from the main entrance of a restaurant, and the annual cost of the license will be $250 for one truck and one employee. Additional employees will cost $25, and a second truck from the same company will cost $100. 

• The council met with proposed Little League Drive developer Natale and Simmers Crane in an executive session.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.