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    Categories: Local News

Town slashes photo radar

Correction
This story erroneously reported that 19 of Morinville’s 26 photo radar sites would go “dormant.” David Schaefer’s report to council in fact said that “19 to 26” sites would go “dormant” — Morinville has more than 40 photo radar sites. The Gazette apologizes for this error.

Morinville  town council is cutting back on photo radar because drivers have started to slow down on many streets.

Town council made more tweaks to its automated traffic enforcement technology policy last week that affected where and for how long photo radar operators can deploy in any one spot.

The changes followed a report from community and protective services director David Schaefer that detailed how the town would drop to 25 hours a week of photo enforcement from 40 as of October due to a drop in speeding in Morinville.

The average speed in Morinville has dropped to about 48 km/h from 67 since the start of photo radar despite a significant growth in traffic, suggesting high compliance with speed limits, Schaefer said in his report. Recent traffic surveys also found that a number of high-concern zones, including some school zones, were actually high-compliance in terms of speed limits.

“The 40 hours was thought to be overkill,” Schaefer told council, so they’re cutting back to 25 through a memorandum of understanding.

The town, photo enforcement contractor (Global Traffic Group Ltd.) and RCMP also plan to stop doing photo enforcement at 19 to 26 of Morinville’s photo radar sites, as traffic surveys have found few speeders at these spots, Schaefer said in an interview. The RCMP will continue to police speeding at these “dormant” sites, and the town will monitor these areas in its traffic surveys. If there’s no surge in speeding in these areas by the next survey (surveys will be done at least twice a year) they’ll be dropped from the photo-radar-rota entirely. If there is a surge, photo radar will return.

Schaefer noted in his report that school and playground zones will always be high-priority enforcement zones regardless of what the traffic surveys find. He also noted that the contractor, town and RCMP would now meet monthly to co-ordinate the location and duration of photo enforcement.

Schaefer said he wasn’t sure how this would affect ticket revenue, as it would depend on where photo enforcement officers deploy.

“The fine revenue isn’t a concern,” he added, as it should be going down if you’re reducing speeding.

“We don’t want to be issuing tickets.”

New rules for radar

Coun. Stephen Dafoe noted that Global could still do 40 hours a week of enforcement under the terms of its contract. While he was okay with the RCMP ordering more enforcement, he wanted certainty that the town or the contractor could not.

“It has to be the RCMP making that determination based on their information.”

Schaefer said this change could be made in the memorandum, with town chief administrative officer Andy Isbister adding that the RCMP more or less had this power already.

Council had previously removed rules from its photo radar policy dictating the amount of time operators should spend at any one site under the assumption that the RCMP was already doing so.

But Morinville RCMP Sgt. Dale Kendall told council last week that she was not doing this.  While police set photo enforcement locations, the time spent at each spot was determined by the contractor.

Council supported Dafoe’s motion to require photo radar operators to spend no more than 15 per cent of their time at any one location without police permission with the exception of school and playground zones.

“We shouldn’t be doing any one location more than (all) school zones combined,” he said.

Council also supported a motion from Dafoe and Mayor Lisa Holmes to give council and the RCMP veto power over any new enforcement technology that their photo radar operators wished to deploy.

“Red light cameras, drones, little green boxes, little green men – I don’t care what it is, it has to go to the RCMP and council for approval,” Dafoe said.

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.