Tucson motorists will have to be cognizant of traffic lights at intersections for another year. The City Council voted 6-1 to renew the contract with the company that operates the cameras, American Traffic Solutions, until Aug. 14, 2013.
On another issue, the council voted to boost fines for red-tag, or loud-party, violations from $100 to $500 for the first violation and more for subsequent violations.
The cameras net the city around $680,000 a year, bringing in about $3.2 million since they were first installed starting in 2006. Costs associated with the cameras are borne by ATS.
Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said the program has been successful in reducing accidents at the eight intersections where the cameras have been placed and said they are an important tool in traffic enforcement.
For instance, traffic accidents at Grant and Tanque Verde roads have declined from 46 in 2005 to 15 in 2011, with similar accident reductions at the other seven intersections.
Councilman Paul Cunningham said too many people are being ticketed for making left turns at intersections with exceptionally long curb setbacks, like at Wilmot Road and 22nd Street.
"A lot of people are making prudent, but technically illegal turns but are getting tickets for those, and it causes negative feelings towards the city," Cunningham said.
Councilman Steve Kozachik, the lone "no" vote, echoed the left-turn complaint. He also opposes the agreement because Tucson pays ATS $60 per ticket, which is as much as double what some other communities pay.
Finance Director Kelly Gottschalk said the staff would try to obtain a lower rate but she didn't know if the contract would allow it.
Red tag violations
For people who continue violating neighborhood noise ordinances after the first violation, the fines are going even higher - from $500 to $750 for a second citation and up to $1,500 for subsequent violations. The council also added a provision that if a violator moves, the violation follows him.
Council members Regina Romero and Richard Fimbres voted against the measure. Both cited a lack of input from neighborhoods other than the ones surrounding the University of Arizona as reasons for their "no" votes.
Bonds to fix roads
The city is gearing up for its publicity campaign to persuade voters to approve in November a $100 million general obligation to fix Tucson's crumbling roads.
A pamphlet to be sent to residents will show the average taxpayer will pay an additional $18 a year for a home valued at $100,000, explain that $99 million will be allocated to private firms for road repair - the remaining $1 million goes to costs associated with issuing the bonds - and include a map of the proposed repairs.
Contact Darren DaRonco at 543-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org