At least one of the City of Tonawanda Common Council’s four new members has reservations about plans to install red-light cameras at three intersections.
The devices that record and fine drivers who run red lights are becoming more common in big cities across the country. But newly elected 2nd Ward Alderwoman Jackie A. Smilinich said she could find no city Tonawanda’s size – about 15,000 residents – that had installed them.
“I can’t find any city this size that has them, so I have nothing to compare with,” Smilinich said after the Council’s reorganization meeting Wednesday night. “I also see a lot of nonrenewals, and I’m concerned about that.”
While supporters say the devices reduce dangerous side-impact, or “T-bone” crashes, critics have cited studies showing that the cameras’ presence can prompt drivers to come to abrupt halts, resulting in an increase in rear-end crashes.
City officials are proposing to install cameras at the intersections of Niagara and Seymour streets, Delaware and Broad streets, and Twin City Memorial Highway and Young Street, which police have identified as particularly dangerous.
Smilinich said she asked that the state increase yellow light and pedestrian crossing times at those intersections to make them safer.
Under the terms of an agreement the Council approved in December, Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems would receive a fixed monthly fee of $4,350 for each camera from $50 fines paid by drivers. The Council would still need to get approval from the state and pass a local ordinance allowing the cameras.
“Everybody keeps getting confused that if they don’t meet the amount of money they’re supposed to collect, does the city ever become responsible?” Police Chief William Strassburg said. “And the answer is no. Then there was the concern are we paying them to come in as consultants for this? No, there’s no cost to the city, ever.”
Strassburg told the Council during Wednesday’s informal session that a Redflex representative from New Jersey will attend the Council’s next meeting Jan. 21 to answer members’ questions.
“I don’t feel that we have all the information,” Smilinich said. “We need more information.”
In other business, the Council:
• Unanimously approved the reappointment of Janice R. Bodie as the city clerk.
• Adjourned to executive session to discuss a proposed contract with Natale Builders to sell the developer 17 acres in Little League Park on which 56 single-family homes would be built.