The city of Dalton is currently losing money on red light cameras at the intersections of Waugh Street and Thornton Avenue and Shugart Road and Highway 41. City Council members say they will decide soon whether to keep those cameras.
“We are on a month-to-month lease now, and we should decide at the next council meeting or two whether to sign a new contract,” said Mayor David Pennington.
The cameras brought in $344,126 in revenue from fines in 2008 and ran up costs of $283,574, according to the city finance office. Those costs include rental and court costs, but they do not include the man hours that police officers spend reviewing video from the cameras before deciding to issue tickets.
But in January of this year, the cameras brought $24,500 in revenue and rang up $23,834 in expenses. In February, the city took in $11,760 in fines from tickets issued for violations caught by the cameras and had expenses of $23,475.
The city pays $4,695 for each “approach” per month, with two approaches (the north and south) covered at the Thornton-Waugh intersection and all three covered at Shugart-Highway 41.
Why has revenue fallen?
Well, citations are down. In January 2009, for instance, the city issued 203 tickets based on video from the cameras, down from 397 in January 2008. In February 2009, the city issued 125 tickets, down from 586 the previous year.
Cities across the state have seen citations and revenue drop from red light cameras since the first of the year. That’s because of a state law that took effect requiring them to add one second to the amber lights at any intersections with red light cameras.
But Dalton public works director Benny Dunn says that law shouldn’t have any effect in Dalton, since the city had already added one second to those intersections when it installed the cameras.
“We were already in compliance with the law,” he said.
So why are tickets down? No one has a firm answer.
“Maybe people just decided they’d rather stop than pay a fine,” said City Council member George Sadosuk.
Norcross, Suwanee, Snellville and other Georgia cities have stopped their red light camera programs since Jan. 1, citing big losses. Rome is reportedly losing $10,000 a month on its traffic camera program, and city officials are considering ending that program.
Some Dalton residents said Monday they wouldn’t mind seeing the cameras go.
“They say they cut down on accidents. I don’t know,” said Al Fernandez. “I haven’t been caught by them, but I know people who have.”
Dalton Daily Citizen
Article by Charles Dalton