Letter: Is a “Turning the Key” Approach to the Photo Enforcement Contract our best option?

speed sign-webMayor, Town council and fellow Citizens of Morinville:

Before I begin with my comments on the Request for Proposal (RFP) going out to the Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) contractors I would like to acknowledge and praise Deputy Mayor Gord Putnam for asking for an addition to the proposal which was to include better “public interface and education” in the RFP. I would also like to praise Councillor Barry Turner and Councillor Stephen Dafoe for wanting to open the RFP to all contractors and not just those who offer the “Full Turn Key” solution.

For those of you who were not at the Council meeting Tuesday, June 10, “Full Turn Key” is the term used for an all-inclusive package by the ATE contractor, essentially the contractor does everything and hands the town a check at the end of the month. I was actually shocked when I found out that this is the type of contract the ATE contractor who works our streets has. I’m sure the question some of you are asking is “What’s wrong with that?” and in some ways a very valid question, after all, when conducted this way, it’s free to the community. What turns my stomach, and I’m sure some would agree with me, is that the town is essentially collecting rent when it comes to photo enforcement, and the type of contract it has awarded.

I am not trying to make any accusations, and I am only pointing out some flaws with this approach to awarding the contract. I’ll break it down as follows:

Accountability: If all the town sees is general data from the contractor, it is very easy to manipulate the data to reflect what we want to see, for example, a large number of tickets in school zones as opposed to other sites. If the contractor sends the tickets directly to the registered owner of the vehicle, and sends them directly to the court, there is no way of knowing the exact details of the speed infractions unless a complete audit is conducted, and this is not something the town wishes to spend extra money on.

Trust: The greater a responsibility we hand over to a contractor and less we take on ourselves means a greater level of trust we put on these contractors. If the contractor could prove to me that he is out for the better good of the community, and not there just to line his pockets then I might be able to trust him enough to hand over that type of responsibility. I would be inclined to ask the town to conduct a poll to see just how much the people trust our current ATE contractor.

Integrity and morality: I’ve put these two together because they both go hand to hand, without one you can’t have the other. Laws are enforced to protect people, not to garnish profit. All too often, the contractor will be out to make money, and in doing so will justify his greed by pointing to the cause, in this case catching speeders. My comment for this is, if the 25 meters before a change of speed comes into effect is so dangerous to the safety of the public, why not move the sign 25 meters further down the road. Technicalities do not justify profit.

Tunnel Vision: All too often, when we have one person doing it all, they may tend to start missing things, or adding in things which are not there. This is never done deliberately, but is natural to happen when there is no oversight. Often when a process is divided into different operations overseen by different organizations human error can be greatly reduced. No one person should have absolute power.

Transparency: As a citizen, I only have access to a small portion of the whole process. I read the statistics posted on the town web site, and all I see is the number of tickets handed out per location and the hours worked at that location. If the town gets more information than that, please share it with those of us who love statistics. Some items I would like to see are direction of travel and a breakdown of speed in 5-km increments, and actual time of day.

In closing, as Town Council moves forward with this RPF, I would hope that the conviction as expressed by councilors Dafoe and Turner as well as Deputy Mayor Putnam in this matter continues. I would also like to see a full list of all bids posted on the town web site as they come in, and not just a short list supplied from non-elected officials.

Rick Price

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