Skip to content

UC Council approves traffic safety cameras

UC Council approves traffic safety cameras

By DONNA RYDER Messenger Associate Editor Run a red light in Union City and it could cost you. Every motorist who runs a red light is a potential T-bone accident or fatality and it must be stopped. It is a serious offense, according to Daniel S. Foglton, sales manager for Traffipax Traffic Safety Systems. Foglton appeared before the Union City Council for a second time at its meeting Tuesday evening. The first was at an orientation session last week. He gave a Powerpoint presentation on the camera system that captures vehicles which run red lights. He said the system is non-invasive and is built to withstand the weather conditions in Tennessee. He added that about 73 percent of the American public is for such a camera system because it makes them feel safer. The laser is mounted at the intersection and measures the speed to predict if the vehicle has time to stop at the red light. The camera does not take a picture until after the traffic light has turned red, therefore not targeting motorists who travel through a yellow light. Should there be an offender, his company would review the video and send stills to a trained officer at the Union City Police Department. The officer could then watch the video and determine if there was an infraction and if a ticket should be issued. The company would then send a ticket to the owner of the vehicle with pictures and a link to the video. Foglton said 70 percent of those who receive tickets pay them within 30 days. Eighteen percent will pay the bill after a certified letter is sent. There is a hearing process for motorists who feel they should not have been charged, as well as a process for the owner to claim he was not the driver and to name who had the vehicle at the time of the offense. The fines are about $50, it was noted. Because the violation is a civil infraction in Tennessee, it does not go against the person’s insurance or their driving record. When asked about how the cameras would capture big trucks running red lights because the license plates are on the front of the trucks, Foglton said the tags on the trailer can be tracked to the leasing company and they generally collect the fine from the driver. He added in many cases, the truck drivers face more penalties from the leasing companies. The camera system can reduce fatalities by reducing the number of people who run red lights. It will cost the city nothing, because it is a violator-funded program. Foglton said his company pays the upfront costs and it generally takes about two years before a profit is made. There are two money options for the city, according to Union City Police Chief Joe Garner, who supports the system. The city can either get a portion of each fine or pay a monthly fee and keep all the profits. Mayor Terry Hailey spoke out against the cameras because he said he does not want Union City to be known as a motorist trap, where the city is making its money off law enforcement. Garner said the system is not to catch speeders and is mainly for safety reasons. He said the city has a problem area and when an officer is posted at the intersection, motorists will not run it. He added last year the department had a reduction of more than 100 in the number of accidents because of the proactive measures taken. Foglton said the cameras can also help the police department because it can be determined who actually ran the red light and caused the accident. This is especially helpful in fatality accidents, because there is a television screen in the camera system which will allow the officer to view the video on site. Councilman Billy Jack “B.J.” Cranford said there is a problem at Everett Boulevard and Reelfoot Avenue with big trucks running the light and two or three cars tagging along behind it. He said the only way to stop it now would be to post an officer there constantly, but the camera system would be one way to stop it. Assistant Police Chief Perry Barfield said signs would be posted so motorists know they will be captured on camera if they run the red light. Councilman Bill “Rat” Harrison said he does not look at it as a trap and believes the city needs to utilize the system. He noted that the police report to the council showed an increase of 15 traffic accidents over April. Garner said the police department is asking the city to target three areas based on the number of accidents which have occurred there. They include First Street and Reelfoot Avenue, Everett Boulevard and Reelfoot Avenue, and Everett Boulevard and Main Street. The council voted to obtain the system, with Hailey casting the lone no vote. A contract will have to be drawn up and an ordinance passed. In other business, after the meeting was opened in prayer by city attorney Jim Glasgow Jr., the council: • Approved amendments to the Union City School System budget for 2007-08. Director of Schools Gary Houston said the school system received less revenue than expected because of a reduction in wheel tax and sales tax. Houston reported enrollment in the school system is about 1,400, with that gradually increasing especially on the kindergarten level, where there are now seven classes. He said at one point he thought the system was going to have physical needs, but it might be able to move people around. The system currently has two pre-K classes for at-risk 4-year-olds, but Houston told Hailey he foresees one day when all 4-year-old will attend school. • Approved a plan of service and an ordinance on first reading for annexation of the Discovery Park of America property. It includes 50.426 acres. • Agreed to extend the lease with Wesco for an additional year at the $1,000 per month rate. • Voted to contract with ATA for auditing services at a cost of $19,300. It is a 7 percent increase over last year’s fee because of additional paperwork which will be required. • Decided to have public works director Steve Ladd review a request to make a portion of South Division Street one-way and to make Harrison Street a dead-end. • Received a report from Ladd on the status of several projects, including paving, mowing, clearing ditches and picking up limbs and trash. • Heard from Bryan Barker of Barker Brothers that the company had almost all the limbs picked up in the city before the storm hit on Friday. He said he plans to run two trucks and should have all the limbs picked up by Friday. If not, the crew will also work on Saturday. While present for the council meeting, Barker also learned that garbage at two houses on Norwood Street is not being picked up on a regular basis. • Heard from Kathy Dillion, who is filling in for city manager Don Thornton while he is on sick leave, and Bedford Dunavant of Union City Insurance that changes are coming in insurance coverage for special events. Groups hosting events on city property will need to provide liability insurance and cover the city on that policy. The city could purchase special events insurance or it could determine not to have insurance and assume the liability should anything happen. Glasgow said the council will have to review events on a case-by-case basis. • Heard from Garner that the animal control officer who picked up two dogs outside the city limits which were then euthanized before a required five-day period has been suspended with pay and that an investigation into the incident is ongoing. Hailey said it is “awfully serious” and that he has several questions that he would not ask in the council meeting, but they all would begin with “What the hell… .” He said several “boneheaded” mistakes were made in a row and the council is not happy. He asked that Garner provide the council with answers when the investigation is complete. It was noted that Tim Doyle, who was contracted with the city to manage the pound, has asked to be let out of his contract with the city. The basic contract with Doyle had expired but it was being continued on a month-to-month basis, Glasgow said, adding either party could give a 30-day notice to terminate the contract. Hailey said he understands there is a movement for a humane society to establish in Union City and that possibly the city will be asked for a piece of property. He asked the residents of Union City to be patient and understand it will not happen overnight. “Let us work on this a couple of weeks or a month and we will get it sorted out,” he said. Donna Gray, who lives near where the animals were picked up, grilled the council and Garner about the issue, asking if she should be worried that her dogs will also be picked up. She asked about the number of animals at the pound and whether or not they had received fresh food and water. When Hailey replied he did not know, she said, “Wrong answer.” The chief said he thought there were two or three animals there and that he would have an officer check on them or he would do it himself. He declined Ms. Gray’s offer to join him as the animal shelter was closed Tuesday evening and he said it would be inappropriate. She insisted that the animals have fresh food and fresh water. Hailey said the animals there would be taken care of and that he would see to it. Chelsey Mathenia asked if the officer was indeed suspended with pay and not fired, while Mike Mathenia said the officer told him that he has been told to resign or he would be prosecuted. Garner repeated that the officer was suspended with pay. Ms. Gray said he should not receive any pay. Mrs. Mathenia said all owners should place a tag on their animals and implied this incident would not have happened if the dog had had proper identification. Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by e-mail at dryder@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 6.18.08

Leave a Comment