Jefferson leaders will consider whether or not to incorporate red light cameras in school zones after the city’s police chief made a public request for them.
Speed enforcement cameras would detect speeding infractions in school zones, with violators being automatically cited. The state recently passed a law allowing this technology to be placed in school zones.
Jefferson police chief Joe Wirthman addressed the council Monday (Oct. 14) asking it to consider the automated enforcement technology. He referenced a recent traffic study conducted by Blue Line Solutions, which provides speed enforcement cameras, that revealed 11,071 of 16,710 vehicles reached speeds 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in Jefferson’s three school zones.
“That is extreme,” Wirthman said. “Sooner or later, one of our children are going to get run over … I am asking that we take a good hard look at this.”
The chief said 11,000 motorists breaking school-zone speed limits is “terrible.”
Mark Hutchinson of Blue Line also addressed the council. According to Hutchinson, if the city contracts with Blue Line, it would pay for the cameras through revenue sharing of paid citations. The city would retain 65 percent of the money while 35 percent would go to Blue Line. A two-year contract is required. Hutchinson said no maintenance fees are involved.
Mayor Steve Quinn said he was “not a fan of red-light cameras.” Looking at the study, he said he felt most of the citations would be issued to parents hurrying to drop off their children to school.
Quinn said he wants to slow school-zone traffic through digital signs that warn motorists of speeds exceeding the limit.
“I’ve always been a fan of those displays that tell you how fast you’re going,” Quinn said. “Because I think a lot of people when they see it, would all of a sudden slow down.”
But Wirthman said those electronic displays generally do not lead to reduced speeding.
Wirthman added that citizens and parents of students would have a 30-40 day window to notify them of the change.
Quinn said he wants the city to conduct a traffic study of the digital displays to gauge their effectiveness in slowing traffic.
Councilman Mark Mobley voiced his support of the red light cameras.
“I’m for this 100 percent,” he said. “I want to protect our kids.”
The city will meet with the school board in November. Quinn asked to table the decision on the cameras until after that meeting.
FIRE INSPECTOR POSITION IMPROVED
The council also voted 4-0 Monday (Oct. 14) to create a fire inspector position within the Jefferson Fire Department after fire chief Mark Duke addressed the council requesting one.
According to Duke, money is available within the fire department’s budget for the position. The fire inspector would also be a certified firefighter in the event that extra manpower is needed.
In other business conducted Monday, the council:
•heard a request from Keith Hayes to remove a zoning condition on 2.95 acres on Athens Street that restricts access to Borders Street. Removing this condition would allow Hayes to construct 16 townhomes on the property.
•was presented the following budget adjustments: $25,000 to add a dumpster enclosure on the southside of Jefferson’s downtown square; $9,000 to the civic center to cover the cost of repairs for flooding earlier this year; and $18,000 for supplies for roads and grounds and an all-terrain vehicle. Funds for each budget adjustment are available due to recent sale of city property and vehicles.
•accepted the Calaboose — the old city jail — as a donation from the First Baptist Church in Jefferson following a closed session.