Murrieta City Council was applauded Tuesday when it voted to do away with the city’s red-light cameras.
Council members approved 4-0—with Councilwoman Kelly Bennett absent—a resolution ending the red-light camera program as well as the contract the city held with camera operator American Traffic Solutions.
For at least the past year, while the result of a citizens’ ballot measure to ban the cameras was awaited, the contract had been kept on a month-to-month basis.
That contract had recently expired, according to police Chief Mike Baray, who cited “recent concerns with the company” and “outdated equipment” as reasons to part ways with ATS.
Another concern previously acknowledged by city officials was that ATS had kept its sensors running several months after the cameras were to have been —pursuant to Measure N passing in November 2012. City officials said they were unaware the sensors had still been operating, and were shocked when ATS released data it had collected on “citable” red-light camera violations. Councilman Randon Lane had suggested considering legal action against ATS.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Alan Long went so far as to query City Attorney Leslie Devaney about the feasibility of banning ATS from doing business in the city.
To that, Devaney said there would need to be a public hearing, along with a series of findings.
“A potential breach of a contract would not be the only thing that would allow you to completely ban them from doing work,” Devaney said.
Prior to Council’s vote, a few members of the public gave their final pleas to end ATS’ era in the city.
“... This is not a company I would want to have providing services in my community and I am pleased to hear some of the comments from the Council members that you feel likewise,” said resident Tom Courbat.
Another resident, Max Miller, said he had received a ticket but believed the cameras fired too quickly, and that many households in Murrieta could not afford the approximately $400 tickets.
“...The tickets are too expensive and last but not least, the people have spoken on this,” Miller said.
The resolution approved Tuesday by City Council calls for City Manager Rick Dudley to draft a letter to ATS requesting the removal of the red light cameras, equipment and all software associated with the program.
“I can’t imagine it would take that long,” Dudley told Patch, after the meeting.
Dudley confirmed that by taking the cameras down and ending the contract, a future Council vote would be required to bring them back.
“At some point in the future, a Council conceivably could, but I have not heard anybody asking about it,” Dudley said.
Resident Diana Serafin, a major proponent of Measure N, said although the cameras will be gone, she still would like the city to assess its yellow-light timing. She suggests adding one second to yellow lights, plus synchronizing traffic lights.
“Removing the cameras is and always has been for me about safety,” Serafin said, noting she had never personally received a red-light ticket.
Mayor Rick Gibbs said yellow-light timing will be discussed at the June 4 City Council meeting.