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    Categories: Local News

Council clamps down on photo radar

RULES OF THE ROAD – A shot of the speed display sign on Morinville's main street. Town council passed new rules last week that clamp down on how photo enforcement technology can be used in Morinville.

Town council has put new rules on photo enforcement in Morinville and how it can use the cash generated from the program.

Morinville council approved of its revised automated traffic enforcement technology policy last week after extensive debate.

The policy lays out how administration and the RCMP are to select sites in town for photo enforcement and how enforcement happens.

The policy also includes a procedure on how photo enforcement officers are to act in the field.

The policy clarifies that photo enforcement will be used at a site only if the site has at least one of the following: a high risk to residents or police from conventional enforcement, a high frequency of traffic violations, a high number of collisions or a high volume of pedestrians. School zones, construction zones or resident concerns may act as supporting factors. The policy also states that site selection will be backed by traffic data where possible.

The policy also spells out that the Morinville RCMP, not the photo enforcement contractor, will control how, where and when photo enforcement takes place.

The procedure states that photo enforcers are to spend anywhere from one to three hours at any one site. Town community and protective services director David Schaefer noted that enforcers would have to provide written explanation if they disobey this rule, like if they left a school zone early.

The procedure also states that no more than 60 per cent of enforcement hours per month will be spent on collectors and arterial roads, and that at least 20 per cent will be spent in school zones. This reflects council’s concerns about enforcers spending too much time at high-ticket locations such as Cardiff Road, said town chief administrative officer Andy Isbister. At least 20 per cent of enforcement will happen between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and at least 20 per cent will happen from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Mayor Lisa Holmes called on Schaefer to require enforcers to put signs on their vehicles that said either “photo enforcement” or “peace officer,” as this would make them a more visible deterrent to speeders.

“If they’re our peace officers, we should be able to identify them.”

Schaefer said the solicitor general generally doesn’t want these vehicles marked, but that he’d ask, and suspected it wouldn’t be a problem.

Council supported motions from Coun. Stephen Dafoe to debate whether or not to continue, eliminate or do in-house photo enforcement prior to renewing a photo enforcement contract, to review its choice of enforcement sites every two years, and to review its photo enforcement policy annually.

Strings on cash

Council voted 4-3 in support of another Dafoe motion that said the majority of the cash the town got from photo enforcement would be spent on projects related to traffic safety, such as crosswalks, crime prevention, such as the RCMP Citizen Academy, and community good, such as the food bank. The leftovers would go towards public infrastructure or any of those three priorities. Councillors Nicole Boutestein, Gordon Putnam and Brennan Fitzgerald were opposed.

The previous policy was much less specific, saying only that photo radar cash had to be used to improve the safety or quality of life of residents. Almost all of the cash collected so far went towards paying for the Community Cultural Centre.

“We’ve always heard, ‘Photo enforcement: it’s not about revenue, it’s about safety,'” Dafoe said, repeating a line often said by its advocates.

“What I’m trying to do with this motion is make sure it is about safety.”

Dafoe said council would decide how to allocate photo radar cash between these three priorities at budget time based on community need and public consultation.

Boutestein questioned this move, noting that the town had a new rec-centre in the works that could use this money.

“We paid off the cultural centre in five years with that money, so it’s not like it was squandered.”

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.