COLUMBIA — Red-light camera technology will be installed at four to six intersections in Columbia as soon as the beginning of next year.
City officials will work with LaserCraft Inc. of Norcross, Ga., to determine which intersections are most in need of the extra enforcement tool. The City Council approved a contract with LaserCraft, which will install and operate the cameras, on a 5-2 vote at its regular meeting, which extended into the early morning hours Tuesday.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser voted against the contract, saying that higher fines for people who run red lights would be more effective.
Running a red light results in a fine of $92.50 and an additional $22.50 in court fees. Nauser noted that the city fines people more than that for smoking in bars.
Skala agreed with Nauser. “The approach to this is to increase the fines,” he said.
Nauser predicted that having only 16 cameras at four to six intersections won’t create the desired effect on red-light violators. If safety is the issue, shesaid, a potential solution would be to have police officers routinely monitoring intersections and ticketing violators. Mayor Darwin Hindman said that would be inefficient.
“The red-light camera system is far superior to having a patrol officer doing the same work,” Hindman said, adding that higher fines would still demand more police presence.
Only one person testified when the council asked for public comment. John Schultz, who lives on West Colchester Road just north of Columbia, voiced his concern about the “Big Brother” effect. The video and still images taken at the intersections will compromise the privacy of those in the vehicle at the expense of the city government, he said.
The discussion on approving the city’s contract with LaserCraft began just before 1 a.m. Tuesday , leaving only a few members present from a once-packed audience. Schultz said he spoke in the interest of the public, not his own.
“I don’t feel that it has been communicated well within the community,” he said.
LaserCraft initially asked for a monthly payment of $67,120 for its services. The approved agreement now states that LaserCraft will receive $28.50 from each citation collected.
“I believe the city has done a great job in the negotiation of the contract,” Hindman said.