by Colin Smith
Morinville will be sticking with its current photo radar program following a close vote by Town Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
Councillors voted four to three in favour of a motion by Mayor Barry Turner to continue with the present Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE), as it is officially known.
Voting for the motion were Mayor Turner and Councillors Sarah Hall, Nicole Boutestein and Lawrence Giffin. Deputy Mayor Scott Richardson and Councillors Stephen Dafoe and Rebecca Balanko were opposed.
The motion was the first of three brought forward from the December 10 Council meeting. The other two concerned the investigation of possible regional cooperation in traffic enforcement services, automated and otherwise.
Shortly before that meeting, the provincial government announced a freeze on the further development of ATE, pending the results of a study being undertaken.
In bringing the matter to Council, Turner said the provincial study will take two years to complete, and Morinville’s contract with its ATE provider comes up for renewal at the beginning of April.
Councillor Hall spoke first in favour of the motion.
“Considering our hands are tied by the province when it comes to creating safe streets for our children, elderly and anyone walking around the town, I think that this is the bare minimum that we need to have,” she said.
Also speaking in support of the motion, Councillor Boutestein said, “I think it’s the only option right now.”
Mayor Turner pointed to increased safety as a result of ATE use—average traffic speed measured in 2009 when the program began was 69 km/hr, which has dropped to an average 43 km/hr—along with its economic benefits to Morinville.
ATE revenue goes into the Town’s Safety Reserve, to be used for projects that enhance traffic safety.
“We have an excellent program,” he said. “I think it’s an example that could serve many other communities well.
“We’ve seen results. We want to maintain those results going forward.”
Councillor Stephen Dafoe declared his opposition to the motion on a point of principle.
“I feel that our peace officers are doing an excellent job in the school zones and that is and always has been my number one concern,” he said. “When I look at the quarterly stats and see that ATE is continually at one school zone only I cannot support this motion.”
Councillor Balanko also questioned the positioning of ATE units, stating that she sees them mainly on the way out of town.
“I’m concerned overall that it’s become a cash cow,” she said.
Balanko also puts her faith in the “boots on the ground” of peace officers.
Similar concerns about placement were shared by Councillor Richardson.
“I don’t feel the spots that are being monitored are in the best interests of public safety,” said Richardson.
Following the vote on the first motion, Turner withdrew the other two.