CAST VOTES – Wendy Skjersven (left) and Nicky Coughlin place their votes during Saturday's photo radar advance poll.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
Morinville has voted to keep photo radar, and the town's mayor has vowed to do a major rethink on how it's used in the community.
Town residents went to the polls Monday to vote on bylaw 1/2014, a proposal to ban the use of photo radar and red light camera technology in Morinville.
Unofficial results as of the close of polls Monday night show that the vote was 654 opposed to 525 in favour, reported returning officer Jennifer Maskoske. That means the bylaw is defeated and that photo radar and red light cameras will not be banned in Morinville.
Mayor Lisa Holmes said she was pleased with the vote's results and the turnout, which was better than the turnout for the town's last byelection.
"It's one tool in the toolbox, and I didn't want to see it banned," she said.
Lynda Lyons, who, along with resident Cliff Haryett, organized the petition that prompted this plebiscite, thanked everyone who went out and voted and thanked town council for being as neutral as possible during the debate.
"The people have voted to retain photo radar," she said in a written statement. "The people have spoken. I trust that council will take the time to review all the valid concerns identified in the various media comments and review the entire program so that it is used properly."
The point of the petition was to get people talking about the pros and cons of photo enforcement and prompt a review or revamp of the program, Lyons said.
"I believe that it did get a fair debate and discussion going over the past year and hope that council listens and acts accordingly."
Total review planned
Council had planned to make changes to the way it manages traffic safety in town regardless of how this vote went, Holmes said.
"This is just the beginning of a bigger conversation that the community's going to have," she said.
Holmes said the debate around this bylaw shows that town residents want more say on how photo enforcement is used in Morinville.
Council will now start a comprehensive review of its traffic safety program, Holmes said.
"We're going to look at everything," she said, including photo enforcement hours, location, and visibility (i.e. whether or not photo vans should hide behind trees or buildings.)
The town will also look to make its use of photo enforcement revenue more transparent following criticisms that the program is a cash cow.
"I admit completely that photo radar does generate revenue, but it also helps to enforce speed," Holmes said. "It can do both."
Council will definitely rethink how it uses its photo enforcement cash in days ahead, Holmes said.
"We're looking at building a new recreation centre. Maybe money should go towards that?"
Council is also thinking about devoting a bigger share of that cash to traffic safety initiatives, she continued.
"There are a lot of really neat initiatives out there for traffic safety that we could be using in Morinville."
The town has a lot of work to do when it comes to educating people about how photo enforcement works, Holmes said.
"People forget that Morinville is not a large community. We're still under 10,000 people. We can't compare ourselves to somewhere like Strathcona County where they have the budget and have the resources to do more enforcement with their community peace officers," she said.
Still, if residents want more officers, council would consider hiring them in next year's budget.
Council's next big decision on traffic safety will involve its contract with photo enforcement provider Independent Traffic Services, which expires at the end of the month. The town's photo enforcement revenue policy is also up for review.
Holmes said she expects these and other issues to be discussed at next week's council meeting.
Voter turnout was about 20 per cent, Maskoske said (1,179 voters out of 5,852 eligible). Poll results become official this Friday.
Grandin residents might have noticed something odd about the new condo complex rising out of the ruins of Grandin mall.
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