by Calli Stromner
It is well-understood that contractors typically charge for their services. They are not volunteers; they are businesspeople who take on a certain amount of risk for the potential to generate an income for themselves and, in a good year, a profit.
So when the owner of Independent Traffic Services (ITS) suggested (during the Open House held March 26) that photo enforcement services provided to the Town of Morinville were done so “without cost to the municipality”, it sparked some skepticism…from the curious citizens who gathered around owner Bruce Kaminski and from a certain Morinville News correspondent.
During that March 26 Open House, Kaminski did indicate his company received a fee for this service, but that he couldn’t disclose what that fee was because, as he stated “the fee structure is protected under FOIP (the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act).” He explained that even though municipalities are obligated to provide full accountability and transparency in their financial accounting, his contract was exempt because his “fee structure was proprietary information protected under FOIP.”
In Kaminski’s explanation, he said that if other photo enforcement service providers knew what his fee structure was, he would no longer have a competitive advantage. Really.
As fate would have it, Council’s acceptance of the 2013 Audited Financial Statements on April 8, provided a little more insight into what those contracted services could cost. Whether a fee structure can really be considered proprietary information is a moot point. Taxpayers have a right to know what their municipality is spending on contracted services. Period.
Financial Services Director Andy Isbister told Council that the net revenue from photo enforcement tickets in 2013 equalled $267,000. The 4th Quarter Report (also accepted by Council on April 8) indicated that ITS issued 5,049 tickets in 2013. A quick look at the Specified Penalty Listing for the Traffic Safety Act indicates that speeding penalties range from $78 for 10 kph over the posted speed limit all the way up to $351 for 50 kph over the posted limit.
For illustrative purposes, let’s say the average photo radar ticket is a conservative $129. Multiply that by the number of tickets issued (5,049) and subtract the net revenue ($267,000) and the 27 per cent the province takes to pay for court services and the calculated fee for ITS might be $208,464 for 2013. Not bad for a company providing 35 hours of enforcement time per week. That works out to $114 per hour.
Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations estimated that hiring an additional Community Peace Officer would cost about $100,000 per year in pay, benefits and equipment. A savings of $108,464 over the ITS fee calculated by this skeptical Morinville News correspondent. And that may be worth Council’s consideration when the ITS contract expires at the end of April 2014, regardless of how the April 14 plebiscite vote turns out.