The following Letter to the Editor was submitted at 1,700 words. As this exceeded our maximum size of 700 words, we have reduced the letter considerably with the writer’s permission, keeping Mr. Weddick’s introduction and suggestions for the photo radar program. We believe the published sections are his key points.
I would like to comment on the recent article posted in the Tuesday, February 25th edition of the Free Press titled “Photo radar increases safety in Morinville according to operator of the system.” Having worked in enforcement in Alberta for 27 years, I am a supporter of any enforcement initiatives that make our communities safer. I feel the public has been kept in the dark by our provincially elected officials relating to why we only see photo radar in municipalities versus rural Alberta. Alberta municipalities saw reductions in provincial funding in the late nineties. The province developed the Automated Traffic Enforcement Guidelines to allow municipalities to generate additional revenue within the boundaries of the municipalities. Is this a concession on the part of our provincial government to allow the municipalities this enforcement initiative but not to allow this for the balance of Alberta? We have all been told time and time again that this is about safety not about revenue. If this is the case then why is the province of Alberta not implementing this enforcement initiative provincially? If you look at British Columbia where the province brought in a provincial program operated by RCMP, it failed due to public pressure. The RCMP provincial photo radar programs had trained RCMP staff operating photo radar units in publicly identified problem areas. The revenue generated by these officers went to the municipalities and the province. There was no monetary benefit to the RCMP or officers for generating more revenue. Sherwood Park council opted out of their municipal photo radar program as they felt person to person contact with its officers was more beneficial than a ticket four weeks after the infraction by mail.
My concerns over the photo radar enforcement program in Morinville include the lack of accountability on the part of the shareholders, the lack of enforcement in the areas identified by the traffic study (Public Safety), and the unethical manner in which our contractor is compensated. As I mentioned from the onset I have no problem with photo radar if those involved follow the provincial guidelines. There was a substantial cost associated with the development of the Alberta Automated Photo Radar Guidelines and as a taxpayer it is frustrating when the guidelines are being ignored. The enforcement statistics in Morinville have shown that ITS only operates where they generate revenue but do not target the other problem areas which have been identified. I would recommend the following changes:
Have an accountable process in place for legitimate complaints for area residents to voice their concerns whether at the town office or RCMP, but not rely on the ITS contractor. Keep statistics on the types and number of complaints so council will have the tools to make changes as needed.
Ensure enforcement is conducted as per the guidelines as it relates to transition zones. Work inside the zones not the first and last 50 feet of the zones. Check with the City of St. Albert, City of Edmonton and other managers who oversee the programs in their communities as I have done and follow their model of enforcement. (They ensure that their operations fall within the provincial guidelines and that their operators are located well inside the speed zones not targeting vehicles at the start or end of the zones.)
Pay ITS or any other contractor an hourly negotiated rate for services provided. This would allow control over the areas of enforcement based on public complaints and traffic collision statistics. This would eliminate the perception of a cash cow as it would be a paid service which will still generate revenue. There would be a guaranteed income for the contractors and not the present percentage we now have in place.
We will have a public vote on the photo radar issue in April. Our current mayor has alluded that if the photo radar contractor is terminated then the town will lose $375,000.00 in revenue. The way I see it the town is losing the 40 percent it is paying our contractor. $375,000.00 would pay for the town to have its own equipment and lease vehicles on a rotating basis. The town could hire Commissionaires who are trained to operate these vehicles and systems. St Albert subcontracts the Commissionaires to operate the equipment they use. The Commissionaires get paid for the service they provide based on an hourly rate. In closing I have always been of the opinion that if you abuse what you have then you lose it.
Kevin Wedick, Morinville resident