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Proposed photo radar ban won't ban photo enforcement, says town

Morinville info session looks to shed light on issue

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am

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Advance polls set

Town residents will have three chances to vote on Morinville’s proposed photo radar ban next month.
Town council voted last week to hold two advance polls for the Photo Radar and Red Light Camera plebiscite – one on April 9 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community Cultural Centre and one on April 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Morinville Rendezvous Centre.
The regular vote will take place on April 14 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community Cultural Centre. Institutional voting stations will also be available at Heritage Lodge and Aspen House.
Questions should go to returning officer Jennifer Maskoske at 780-939-4361.

Will Morinville vote to ban photo radar next month? Well, it depends on what you mean by “photo radar,” says the town’s manager of corporate operations.

Town residents will get to learn more about speeding and traffic safety next Wednesday as the town holds an open house on photo enforcement.

The open house is part of the lead-up to the town’s upcoming vote on the proposed photo radar and red light camera bylaw. The bylaw is the result of a petition started by resident Cliff Haryett to ban photo radar from the town.

This vote is a great chance for the town to talk about what it wants from its traffic safety program, said town Mayor Lisa Holmes.

“The open house and the community dialogue is about traffic safety as a whole,” Holmes said. That dialogue, and the upcoming vote on the bylaw, would both shape the town’s decisions on the future of photo enforcement in town and its contract with photo enforcement provider Independent Traffic Services (ITS), which is up for renewal this year.

“Any decision council makes will be respectful of that vote,” Holmes said.

Morinville corporate operations manager David Schaefer said the open house would feature many experts on photo enforcement, including the town’s traffic and pedestrian safety advisory committee, members of the local RCMP and Sgt. Chris Narbonne of the Capital Region Intersection Safety Partnership (CRISP).

“There’s a lot of questions and a lack of understanding,” Schaefer said. “We want to make sure people get informed.”

Photo radar vs. “photo radar”

One significant point of confusion is what would actually happen if the town passed the photo radar bylaw.

The bylaw, if passed, would require all traffic enforcement in Morinville to be conducted by the RCMP, bylaw officers or certified peace officers (CPOs), and would ban those agents from using “photo radar equipment or red light camera equipment.”

That means Morinville would not be allowed to use red-light cameras or radar guns linked to cameras, Schaefer said – technologies it does not currently use. Such a ban would remain in place for at least three years, as provincial law prevents councils from overturning bylaws made by petitions before then.

The town had hoped to use radar-linked cameras to spot speeders at night, Schaefer added.

The bylaw would not, however, stop the town from doing what it currently does, which is have a contractor (ITS) use laser-based speed detectors linked to cameras to ticket speeders.

“It has nothing to do with the contractor,” Schaefer said of the law.

Any contractor authorized to do photo enforcement in Alberta must first be made a CPO by the province, Schaefer said. ITS’s agents are CPOs and could still work in town under this bylaw.

Also, the bylaw and the petition it is based on specifically refer to “photo radar,” not photo enforcement, Schaefer said. People might use “photo radar” as shorthand for all camera-based speed enforcement, but the term actually refers to a specific type of technology.

The petition’s proponents did not speak with and did not want to speak with town staff about their intentions, Schaefer said, and did not provide background information to clarify if they meant to ban photo enforcement or photo radar.

“You can’t make any assumptions on what 900 people tried to sign,” Schaefer said, referring to the petition’s signatories. As a result, the town’s lawyers said they had to base the bylaw on the actual words in the document. Those words identified two specific technologies: photo radar and red light cameras.

Council could still decide to ban photo enforcement entirely in wake of the vote, Schaefer noted.

Cliff Haryett, one of the proponents of the petition, said his intent with the petition was to ban all photo enforcement in town, not just radar-based.

Haryett confirmed that he did not work with town officials or lawyers when wording the petition, and said he was not aware that the proposed bylaw would allow photo enforcement to continue in town.

“Photo radar, photo laser, it’s just a bloody term,” he said. “(Schaefer) is just trying to split hairs.”

Holmes said town staffers did exactly as they should have in creating this bylaw. “I didn’t think it was our place to judge what the intent of the petition was.”

The open house runs from 6 to 8 p.m. this March 26 at the Community Cultural Centre, Schaefer said. The town will also have a booth at the town’s annual trade show April 11 to 13 on this issue.

Visit morinville.ca/government/departments/corporate-operations for details.


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