City to rescind agreement with red-light camera manufacturer

Friday, December 12, 2008 | 4:56 p.m. CST; updated 9:34 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 9, 2009

COLUMBIA — It’s been more than two years since the City Council authorized the city to pursue red-light cameras, and not a single camera is installed.  That’s the disappointment Mayor Darwin Hindman and the council signaled to LaserCraft, the company that has spent nearly a year in negotiations with the city to install red-light camera systems.

The city will end its negotiations with LaserCraft and pursue other companies who can “move it along more quickly,” City Manager Bill Watkins said at his regular news conference Friday morning.

With more than two years of proposals and negotiations behind them, time is of the essence for city officials who want to implement the system quickly.

“I think that there will be great urgency in getting these installed,” Hindman said. “I hope no one gets killed in the meantime.”

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said if the council chooses to rescind the agreement with LaserCraft at Monday night’s meeting, the staff will draft a request for proposals this month and hopefully have a new company selected by the end of March. A camera system won’t come to fruition until next summer.

The troubles with installing the red-light camera system have been a mounting drama.  The process of implementing cameras to enforce red-light rules in Columbia began in August 2006 after the council authorized the city to request proposals for installing and operating the project.

One year later, in August 2007, the city and LaserCraft began working together on a proposal.  Earlier this year, LaserCraft conducted studies of several intersections, but St. Romaine said the company let deadlines slip and changes within their administration affected how the city communicated with the company.  

A final deadline was set to have cameras up by the end of this year, but after that fell through, both the city and LaserCraft decided it would be in both parties' interest to part ways.

“We lost considerable faith in their ability,” St. Romaine said.

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John Schultz December 12, 2008 | 9:10 p.m.

So Mayor Hindman is concerned that someone might die before the two test cameras are up (assuming the new vendor still goes with the oddly-selected eastbound and westbound approaches to Worley and Providence). If he is so concerned about this issue, what signals does he consider not important enough, or which commuters' lives are not important enough, to have cameras installed? Clearly the only way to solve the problem using cameras is to one at each approach to every signalized intersection, something which the city cannot afford.

(Report Comment)
Les Sapp December 30, 2008 | 2:22 p.m.

If I understand the “red light camera system” the company is paid per ticket. Let’s think about that, if anyone suggested we pay our police force based on a per arrest or per ticket would it not be the same as paying the red light company per ticket. I think this is a very simplistic approach to the problem. My first observation is why isn’t there a left turn signal at Worley and Providence? It’s not hard to see why someone trying to turn left would run the light at this location. All the other intersections on Providence have left turn signals, why not this one?

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich December 30, 2008 | 2:29 p.m.


"High school students in Maryland are using speed cameras as a tool to fine innocent drivers in a game, according to the Montgomery County Sentinel newspaper. Because photo enforcement devices will automatically mail out a ticket to any registered vehicle owner based solely on a photograph of a license plate, any driver could receive a ticket if someone else creates a duplicate of his license plate and drives quickly past a speed camera. The private companies that mail out the tickets often do not bother to verify whether vehicle registration information for the accused vehicle matches the photographed vehicle."

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 30, 2008 | 3:41 p.m.

Springfield used the same company for their red light cameras and chose to pay on annual contract basis instead of a set value per violation. When Columbia was starting work with this company, Springfield was not seeing nearly the number of red violations to break even on the annual cost from the individual fines paid to the city, so Columbia chose wisely in that regard.

(Report Comment)
David Sheahen December 31, 2008 | 10:41 a.m.

The city says the reason for the cameras is safety, but the selection of the Worley and Providence intersection does make me think this is disingenuous. There is no protected left from the east or west. It is virtually impossible to make a left turn during peak traffic times. I am not seeing a tremendous problem with wreaks at Columbia intersections either. I am concluding the only reason for this is the cash flow, from us to them. The pervasive attitude that we must be watched or we will all run amok is a downer. But, if the city is as good at getting these installed as they are plowing the streets, we have little to worry about.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 31, 2008 | 11:03 a.m.

Lasercraft selected the Worley and Providence intersection, not the city. When Tony St. Romaine was on KFRU a few weeks back, I asked him about this considering it is not near the top of the accident-prone intersection according to an article in the Missourian that listed the top 16 intersections in Columbia where accidents had occurred. He said that the approaches on Stadium near the mall and I-70 were not considered because of planned roadwork that will be done there in the near future.

If people are concerned about this issue, they need to let their councilman know about it. This issue has been before the council three separate times and I have been the only person all three meetings to raise questions about the cameras.

(Report Comment)
roy willard January 16, 2009 | 10:08 a.m.

Regarding red light cameras: if the issue is safety, it would be less expensive and, I believe, just as effective, to build a 1-2 second delay so all the lights are red that long before the green light comes on. Drivers are not, generally, running red lights but yellow lights. This would reduce the number of accidents.

(Report Comment)

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